How much should an athlete drink?
Some sportspeople do not reach the recommended daily water intake, which is between 1.5 and 2 litres of water, while others actually exceed it.
Can you tell which group you belong to? Water and sport go hand in hand. It is important to know how to hydrate yourself and how much water is considered enough. Remember, it’s not good to have more or less than that.
As you know, water is the body’s largest component and is essential for life. What’s more, you can go days without eating but not without drinking. Water is indispensable for the body to be in optimum condition and function properly. In addition, it affords no calories, it is a non-calorie nutrient, which can be found in food and in drinks. Of course, there is also that produced by the body itself.
Water is so important that it is involved in several functions:
○ The transport of nutrients to cells
○ Waste removal
○ The lubrication of joints
○ The regulation of electrolytes in the blood
Balance is all
It is important to keep a proper water balance. This is determined by what you consume (food, drinks, metabolic water from the burning of nutrients) and what you lose (perspiration, faeces, and urine). Major water loss can directly affect your performance in sports. The quantity of sweat produced and the quantity of liquid lost will depend on the duration and intensity of the exercise, the ambient temperature and humidity, and each person’s characteristics. Therefore, the more intense and prolonged your sports routine, and the hotter and more humid the ambience, the greater the loss. That’s why it is essential for you to be properly hydrated before, during and on finishing training, or completing an event.
The best thing for hydrating yourself is water. It’s that simple. No other product or substance offers the same properties. It is true that you may sometimes need to take drinks with salts and carbohydrates, those known as sports beverages, whose specific composition is designed for people making a great physical effort.
What, when and how much should you drink?
The reason to do so before any physical activity is to ensure proper hydration. Insufficient fluids can jeopardise thermoregulation during exercise.
We recommend 400-600 ml (2-3 glasses) of water, 2 hours before activity to prevent dehydration. Water is a good option but if you intend to do high-intensity training lasting over an hour, sports drinks are a good option too.
We need to drink during training or competitions in order to replace the water of the electrolytes lost through sweating.
As a rule, you don’t need to drink or take anything during physical exercise lasting less than 1 hour. However, some sportspeople, and this may be your case, feel better after rinsing their mouths with a cold drink.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DRINK
“Only drink water when you feel thirsty”
You’re sure to have heard this more than once. It is the typical piece of advice we have all been given. But it is far from true, as the sensation of being thirsty is in no way reliable. It is a delayed sign of poor hydration. So, we advise you to drink something as soon as possible. Have between 150-250 ml of water or sports drinks every 20 to 25 minutes (2 or 3 sips), so that fluid deficit does not exceed 2% of your body weight, as that would affect your sports performance.
The point of drinking water once you have finished training or completed an event is to replace the water and mineral salts you have lost through sweating. We recommend you drink between 1.2 and 1.5 litres of fluid for every kilo you have lost in order to completely offset the losses in fluid.
If replenishment is immediate it helps the sportsperson’s mental and physical recovery. A good choice is natural juice, water, water-rich fruit or sports drinks. All of them are fine!
Sodium is the main electrolyte you lose when exercise lasts a long time. So don’t ever forget to replenish it. You could have a sports drink, add some salt to water or have a snack that provides the necessary quantity of sodium, like a cooked turkey or ham sandwich.
Remember that recovery following exercise is part of the preparation for the next session and you should consider rehydration a major part of that.
If you always keep a little bottle of water by your side and drink moderately, you will keep the risk of being dehydrated to a minimum. Try to keep the right balance in your intake. Not too much or too little. It depends on the type of exercise you do and the conditions of the place you are going to do it in. You will notice improved performance.