How much should I drink when training or racing?

When you’re training or racing do you remember to drink or do you wait until you’ve finished?
When we exercise, our muscles produce heat and so we feel warmer. Your body wants to maintain a constant temperature of around 37-38 degrees C so to disperse the extra heat, we sweat.
During an hour of vigorous exercise an average person could expect to lose 1 litre of fluid as sweat which equates to around 600 calories of heat energy. If you’re exercising harder or in hotter conditions, it could be more.
The amount you sweat will also depend on individual factors such as body weight, size, gender & fitness levels. Fitter people tend to sweat more.
Every 1kg decrease in weight represents a loss of approximately 1 litre of fluid. If you are losing fluid as sweat then it needs to be replaced or you risk dehydration.
Our body is made of around 66% water so losing too much will cause us problems. Good fluid and electrolyte balance helps our body to maintain its internal environment as it adjusts to the challenges and stresses training and racing put on it. This keeps us healthy. Proper hydration is important for cellular metabolism, blood flow and therefore athletic performance.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you’re likely to already be dehydrated;
  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramping
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Unclear thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Significant weight loss during exercise
  • Decrease of sweat during exercise
If you want to minimise your risk for getting dehydrated during a race, then you need to focus on keeping fully hydrated beginning one week before your event. Good hydration is especially critical for the two to three days prior to race day.
A good way of establishing how much you need to drink is by measuring your weight before and after a training session. Any weight lost can be assumed to be fluid loss and gives you a guide as to how much fluid you need to replace. If you are down 1-2% in body weight you can assume you are dehydrated and your performance will drop.
Weather conditions can also increase our risk of dehydration. If it’s cold, hot, windy or humid you need to pay special attention to your hydration strategy.
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