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Hydration – How to Do It Right

By Jiri Kaloc

Dehydration affects your body as well as your brain. When dehydrated, your body has a harder time to control its temperature and you can experience fatigue and reduced motivation. This is especially problematic during exercise but it affects your daily life too. Let’s look at what to drink, how much, and when to prevent dehydration.

Water, coffee, and tea

The best hydration strategy outside of exercise is to drink when thirsty and choose non-caloric beverages such as water, plain or carbonated, or unsweetened coffee and various teas. Also keep in mind that soups, vegetables, fruits, and other water-rich foods count towards your daily fluid intake.

Tea is an excellent choice for hydration outside exercise.

Choose the right sports drink

When it comes to exercise, you can branch out to sweetened drinks. That’s because plain water is not the best way to hydrate. For the fastest hydration, a drink should contain sodium and 2 – 4 % of glucose to utilize more fluid uptake pathways. Let’s look at the three main types of sports drinks that differ in sugar content so you always know which ones are best for your sport.

Hypotonic drinks – They have a lower concentration of sugars than blood plasma (1 – 4%) which allows for very fast absorption. They are best used before or during long endurance sports, especially in hot climate, where hydration is the top priority.

Isotonic drinks – These drinks have a similar concentration of sugars to blood (6 – 8 %). They are the most universal when it comes to usage. They give a moderate amount of carbs and are absorbed relatively fast too, but can cause digestive issues in higher intensities.

Hypertonic drinks – These drinks have a higher concentration of sugars than blood (10 % +). Most sodas and fruit juices would fall into this category. They digest slower than the other two so they aren’t good for consumption during exercise because they would cause digestive issues. They are best used for recovery after.

Replenish electrolytes

You should also think about electrolytes when preparing your exercise hydration strategy. That’s because each litre of sweat contains roughly 900 mg sodium, 1 mg magnesium, 300 mg potassium, and 15 mg calcium. If you exercise for longer than one hour, and especially if you’re the type that sweats a lot, you should choose a sports drink that contains all of these electrolytes.

How much?

Let your thirst dictate how much you drink throughout the day. If you’re in a temperate environment and also eat soups, veggies, and fruits, chances are that you don’t really need to drink the full recommended 2 litres or 8 glasses of water a day. Your body will naturally ask for less.

For exercises that are shorter than one hour, you don’t have to worry too much about drinking during those but make sure to rehydrate after. For longer endurance sports like running, cycling, or triathlons, you should drink between 500 – 1,000 ml of fluids per hour. The specific amount will vary for everyone.

For example, if you tend to sweat a lot and it’s really hot, get closer to the higher end of that range. But either way, start drinking about 30 minutes into the activity, and continue to drink on a schedule to avoid performance drops.

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