Why is hydration so important for performance?
It’s very easy to overlook the importance of hydration as an athlete, but needs to be a constant reminder for good habits to start. During an average day, the loss of fluid occurs even without much exertion (respiration, faeces, urine etc). Therefore, when exercising for a prolonged period, more fluid is lost through sweat making you susceptible to dehydration. This can cause dizziness, cramps and fatigue – not good for optimal performance. Not only is water loss crucial to replenish, but your electrolyte counts too. They’re minerals found in your blood and other bodily fluids, and are essential for bodily roles such as, regulating hydration, blood PH, and critical muscle and nerve functions.
Are sports drinks the answer?
Most people are advised to pick up a sports drink when participating in activity, whether it’s a training session or competition. However, depending on what sport you take part in and what the level or duration is, can determine whether you need these sports drinks such as Lucozade and Powerade. Similarly, to supplements such as whey protein, most people think they’re a magic substance that will automatically improve performance, when in fact they aren’t always necessary. If you are training mainly for endurance and a session lasting over 60 minutes, then it is beneficial to choose a sports drink.
After losing excess sweat, you are going to want to regulate the levels of water and electrolytes lost. As well as providing carbohydrates that have a crucial role in providing energy for the body. Another factor to consider is the type of carbohydrate provided. Most sports drinks contain sucrose (glucose and fructose) which provides an additional source of energy. Glucose alone can only be metabolised up to a certain amount. Therefore, the addition of fructose allows more energy to be stored through multiple transport systems; overall an increased whole-body carbohydrate utilisation, beneficial for performance. Not only will glucose help replenish carbohydrate stores, but the use of multiple carbohydrates has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal distress from just glucose alone, making it more effective at rehydrating.
For a moderate intensity workout lasting less than an hour, water alone will do. A sports drink will not offer any additional benefit outside a workout, only adding extra calories and sugar to the diet. There’s an average loss of 1 litre per hour of sweat during exercise (depending on intensity, duration, climate etc), and if limited fluid is obtained, then this could be even more. It’s important to replenish these stores in recovery; a good indication of how much fluid you need can be determined by urine colour and pre and post workout weight (1kg weight loss = 1 litre of fluid).