How to Properly Hydrate for Optimum Performance
As a racer, not only do you need to understand the importance of hydration and its role in your performance on race day: heat regulation, muscle contractions, delivery of nutrients, joint function, etc.; you also need to understand how to calculate & maintain proper hydration levels to support high intensity riding and racing.
Importance of Proper Hydration on Performance
In addition to being properly fed, proper hydration levels are necessary during a race or cross training sessions to help maintain the proper internal temperature. During activity, working muscles create heat and this heat has to be removed from the body. This (exothermic) process of removing heat is performed through sweat on your skin.
As you sweat you naturally loose water and electrolytes; excessive fluid loss results in a decrease of your blood volume which negatively affects your body’s ability to rid itself of heat and also increases your heart rate, driving your intensity levels out of the aerobic intensity range (Note: elite & professional racers compete at an intensity that keeps their body from going anaerobic , I will address this in my next article).
3 Simple Indicators of Proper Hydration
You are urinating once an hour
Your urine is clear or slightly colored
[Note: if you are taking a multi-vitamin that has B vitamins, this will taint your urine color slightly; focus on the frequency of your urination]
You see sweat on your skin during exercise (of any intensity) – watching your arms is an easy source
9 Tips to Proper Hydration
Consume half of your body weight in cold filtered water every day for basic metabolic needs (digestion, respiration, etc.). [For example: 150 pound rider x .5 ounces = 75 ounces per day]
Know your sweat and replenishment rate associated with your training & racing (see below) to avoid over hydrating (hyponatremia) or under hydrating (dehydration)
Consume cold water & sports drinks. Cold fluids have been clinically proven to empty from the stomach faster than warm fluids.
Consume a sports drink with a 6-8% carbohydrate concentration rate for optimum absorption; drinking straight water on race day can cause you to become over-hydrated & bloated (your body is not absorbing because there is a lack of electrolytes)
Don’t wait until you are thirsty; research has shown that by the time your brain recognizes you are thirsty, you already slightly dehydrated.
Take your goal fluid intake goal & divide by 8 hours; the typical amount of time you are at work or school, to increase your consistency.
Set an alarm in your phone, watch or daily planner on your computer. An audible reminder will bring awareness to how quickly time gets by you and how you can become under hydrated by the end of the day.
Keep a hydration log; use a post it, put a black mark on your water bottle with a marker; something that will help you calculate your total water intake for the day. Coffee, energy drinks, soda, juices, etc. do not count when it comes to your daily fluid intake.
Use real food that has a high water & electrolyte content to “pre-hydrate” the body. Fluids are absorbed more efficiently when there is a presence of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium). Fruits and vegetables provide a perfectly combination of water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, low glycemic sugar and in some cases amino acids; all of which are lost through sweat while you ride, race & cross train.
High Quality Foods that Hydrate
Watermelon contains 92 percent water, 8 percent natural sugar, essential electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium & sodium
Avocado is comprised of not only healthy monounsaturated fats but also 81 percent water by weight! Avocados are important to racers in the recovery process
Cucumbers are 96 percent water and have a great electrolyte profile (calcium, magnesium, potassium & sodium). The mineral, silica, also found in cucumber, is essential for healthy, lubricated connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone
Greek Yogurt contains live bacterial cultures that may improve the immune system. With yogurt’s profile of milk sugar and protein, yogurt can be viewed as an ideal recovery food (assuming you are not lactose intolerant)
The Role of Electrolytes in the Hydrating Process
Sodium is a required element for normal body & muscular functions. Sodium is lost through sweat and urine while replaced by diet. Sodium happens to be the electrolyte that is chronically depleted and needs to be closely watched to maintain optimum levels.
Celery is considered to be a powerful electrolyte food. As little as two to three mineral-rich stalks of celery can replenish an athlete’s sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc levels after intense exercise.
Potassium is a positively charged electrolyte within the body’s cells. The flow of potassium and sodium in and out of cells maintains the normal functioning of the heart, brain, kidney and skeletal muscles. Potassium is important for muscle contraction and the rhythm of the heart.
Cantaloupe is approximately 89% water. Cantaloupe is an exceptionally good fruit for supporting energy production through its efficient carbohydrate metabolism and ability to keep the blood sugar stable.
Strawberries are approximately 92% water. In addition to being a strong antioxidant, strawberries help regulate the blood sugar response in active individuals.
Magnesium is an essential mineral which acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzyme systems, including those that control the metabolism of glucose (stored sugar in the liver & muscles). Magnesium has a strong independent role in controlling blood pressure and is thought to be an important factor in preventing heart attacks. The most hydrating magnesium rich food is broccoli (90% water & powerful anti-inflammatory).
Why use sports drinks?
The typical adult body can store approximately 60-90 minutes (intensity levels pending) of sugar in your liver and muscles to fuel your efforts. This stored energy is used from the minute you wake up. By the time you get to the start of your racing (2-3 hours after you wake up), your sugar storages are nearly spent. Using a sports drink is an easy way to “top off” sugar that your muscles need for any activity (the higher the intensity, the higher the demands for stored sugar).
When to use a sports drink? 10 minutes before an activity, every 15 minutes during your activity and again within the first 20 minutes after an activity.
How many calories should a sports drink have? 60-70 calories per serving (6-8% concentration rate); the body can absorb between 100-150 calories every 30 minutes of easily digestible carbohydrates.
What electrolyte profile should a sports drink have? A minimum of 30 mg of potassium and 100mg of sodium is necessary to maintain proper muscle contractions (clinically referred to as the sodium-potassium pump). If you are struggling with cramping or other stomach related issues while using a sports drink, please email me directly and I will help you determine which sports drink is ideal for you based on your training and racing efforts.
How to Calculate your Sweat Rate
Step 1: Capture your body weight before and after every workout (on or off of the track)
[Note: use a non-digital scale due to the margin of error & inconsistency of digital scales]
Step 2: Document how much fluid (water or sports drink) you have consumed during the workout or race
When a muscle becomes dehydrated by as little as 3%, that muscle can lose between 10-20% of its contractile strength and also incurs an eight percent loss of speed. Imagine undermining all of your hard work by starting your race or workout under hydrated and then making the situation worse by not consuming adequate fluids and electrolytes (to facilitate the absorption of the water) during a workout or immediately following a race.
Most racers don’t pay attention to how much body weight they lose during a race or workout, so they are not aware of their hydration needs on race day. At MotoE, we have our racers weigh themselves before & after every workout (on or off of the track) along with document how much fluid they have consumed during the workout to determine the sweat rate given the temperature, humidity, ride/workout intensity & duration.
Though this seems like a lot of information to initially document & evaluate, we make it simple by providing them a MotoE Sweat Rate Calculator. When you realize that you are only as strong as your weakest link, eliminating the question of how much fluid to consume on race day moves you one step closer to the podium. If you would like a FREE copy of my MotoE’s Sweat Rate Calculator, please email me directly.
Work Smart, Not Hard!
By implementing these hydrating tips and avoiding over or under hydration, you will see your body produce new levels of speed, consistent lap times and a reduction in fatigue!