Hydration’s importance for exercise performance
Maintaining proper hydration throughout our day is a key component of optimal health. Some two thirds of our bodies are made up of water that needs replenishing. Age, the weather and of course levels of activity all come into the equation of how much we need to drink. Fortunately, we have an inbuilt guide to help us – feeling thirsty. Water is the best port of call for a thirst – but don’t forget what you eat can be critical too. Depending upon your daily diet, over 20% of your water needs can come from fruit and vegetables, as they in turn are 80% water.
What to drink when exercising is often made more complex than it need be, with our gullibility often exploited by specialised drinks providers.
The importance of hydration when training
When exercising your body heats up and you begin to sweat. You start losing water and more importantly electrolytes, the most important of which is sodium. Maintenance of the correct electrolyte balance is vital when performing hard training, as the ratio of sodium and potassium maintains proper muscle function. If this is jeopardised the risk of muscle cramping increases as performance suffers.
How to maintain a proper electrolyte balance
Aim to remain hydrated before and during your training. If you are dehydrated before you start, your performance will not be optimal and inevitably your training will suffer.
There is no need for isotonic drinks or sugary laden sports drinks. Bear in mind the levels of sugar in many of these drinks will lead you to urinate more, as sugar is an osmotic diuretic. This can lead you to losing more electrolytes through your urine, thus making your more dehydrated while degrading performance.
If you wish to improve performance you may want to provide electrolytes to your muscles while you train, so the simplest method is to add salt to your water*. A small amount to begin with, no more than half a teaspoon per litre. Watch out for an improvement in performance, as sodium helps increase blood volume, which in turn means more blood carrying nutrients and oxygen to your working muscles.
Hydration is an important aspect of training and health that is often overlooked, but very simple to rectify. Once your hydration is restored you will start to appreciate how important it is, as your performance will drastically improve.
*IMPORTANT HEALTH NOTE – if you have ANY health issues around salt, or suffer from hypertension, consult your GP first before adding salt to water.
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