How to hydrate

What, when and how much to drink during sports to improve performance? Find out what to look out for when choosing a sports drink.

Athletes hear about compliance with the drinking regime all the time. However, there is quite a lot of chaos about what to drink, whether it makes sense to invest in some ionic drinks, and most importantly, if an athlete wants to supply the body with something other than pure water, what should be looked out for on the label of sports drinks.

As with most things related to nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Apart from the fact that you should supply the body primarily with what it loses during physical activity.

Symptoms of dehydration

If you play sports during hot summer days, you have to expect large fluid losses during training and competitions, which can have unpleasant consequences for you.

Even with a few percent water loss (just 2-3%), sports performance begins to decrease. If the losses continue, our body starts to save water, the natural cooling of the body (sweating) decreases, the body starts to overheat and with a 5% loss of water, our performance drops really drastically (many scientific studies have agreed that performance drops by 30 to 40% ).

Even then, if we do not supply the body with fluids, we will be happy if we finish the training or the race at all, because cramps, nausea, sometimes chills, or even loss of consciousness will begin to appear.

Why it is important to drink enough during sports:

  • Dehydration causes the blood to thicken, which is a problem. The transport of nutrients, oxygen and waste substances deteriorates.
  • Drinking also ensures cooling of the body's internal environment
  • A properly chosen sports drink helps replenish the minerals we lose through sweat
  • In case of more demanding activities, we can also supplement energy.

What, how much and when to drink

In general, to determine the amount of fluids per day, the amount is about 35 to 40 ml for every one kilogram of body weight.

Of course, this is a little misleading, because more factors than just weight affect the drinking regime. The amount of active matter in the body, our energy intake, the amount of protein in the diet, the amount of salt, climatic conditions (including altitude) and, of course, physical activity play a role.

It is also important to emphasize that the need for fluids increases with age. This is due to the reduced ability of the kidneys to excrete waste materials from the body, as well as a different level of hormones and a poorer ability of our skin to "breathe" and regulate body temperature.

First, let's clarify two important things. The first is the fact that a trained individual will start sweating much earlier during physical activity and will sweat much more intensely than an untrained person. With training, the body learns to maintain the stability of the internal environment much more efficiently and regulates the temperature better. Thanks to this, we can subsequently perform better.

The second important fact is the real ability of the human body to absorb the water we drink. This is limited to approx. 0.7 to 0.9 l per hour.

So, even with a lot of sweating, you should not exceed the limit of 1 liter of fluids consumed per hour. Water will splash unnecessarily in your stomach, the body will eliminate the excess amount, and in the end, excessive drinking can also negatively affect your digestion.

It is therefore clear that if an athlete sweats up to 2 liters of fluids per hour during intense performance in the heat due to thermoregulation, willy-nilly he will be dehydrated at the end of the activity and will have to replenish fluids appropriately as part of regeneration.

Just for interest: Our muscles start to generate heat during exercise, the amount of which is up to twenty times higher than when we are at rest. Only 25% of the energy created by burning nutrients is used for muscle work, the rest of the energy starts to raise our temperature.

When to drink

Before the load

You can easily dehydrate yourself for an hour or two by drinking an isotonic drink or pure water (perhaps 1 dcl every 8-10 minutes) . We'll get to what is isotonic in a moment.

Under load

Many people claim that they do not need to drink while playing sports. But it's important to realize that it's not just that you wouldn't be able to do it without drinking, you wouldn't be able to finish training or a race. If you're properly hydrated, you'll feel better and less tired after your workout.

In general, it is recommended to drink approximately 150 ml of fluids with the correct ion content every 15 to 20 minutes during sports activities, due to the bonds of sodium, potassium and water.

What to drink

If you don't sweat a lot during training and the training lasts a short time (up to 1 hour), then you don't even need to reach for ionic drinks. Still water or water with a little lemon juice is sufficient.

If the physical load is higher or you do sports in the heat, it is advisable to use ionic drinks. Here, athletes are generally confused about how to know the individual types.

One of the most important things you need to pay attention to is the concentration of the drink - the correct dilution affects the rate of absorption of the liquid.

There are 3 basic groups of drinks, which differ from each other in osmolality (a measure of the concentration of nutrients – carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and other food supplements).

  • hypotonic drinks - they have a lower osmolality than blood, so they hydrate best and solve fluid loss best
  • isotonic drinks - have the same osmolality as the body's internal environment. The rate of absorption is therefore slightly slower than that of hypotonic drinks.
  • hypertonic drinks - have a higher osmolality than the internal environment of the organism. They are completely unsuitable for hydration.

Therefore, it is advisable to use hypotonic drinks before and during performances (also because drinks with a higher concentration sometimes cause unpleasant digestive problems!)

You can use the other two types of drinks (hypertonic and isotonic) mainly for regeneration.

Sweat loss = mineral loss

With hydration drinks, especially during the summer, you should watch to see if they replenish your lost minerals.

To begin with, we can indicate the losses that our body suffers during sports and excessive sweating.

Let's take a look at the composition of sweat - or what our body excretes. From this we will then be able to deduce what to give him back.

The composition of sweat depends, of course, on several factors - on the composition of our diet and our state of health. Sweat consists of water (99%), mineral salts (90% of which is sodium chloride), vitamins, antibodies, urea, uric acid, ammonia and lactic acid.

In addition to sodium chloride, the body primarily loses potassium, then calcium, magnesium, etc.

In connection with sodium, we should mention the so-called hyponatremia, which is a condition where the composition of the internal environment in the body is disturbed - the concentration of sodium ion (Na+) in the blood plasma decreases. It most often appears during demanding sports. Athletes experience disorientation, confusion, nausea, fatigue, or even collapse – this condition is caused by excessive fluid intake during a stressful situation. An athlete usually does not even notice a slight drop in sodium, but if there is a significant drop in sodium, it can turn into brain and lung edema.

That is also why it is often said that if athletes sweat a liter of sweat per hour, they should get some 750-1000 milligrams of sodium as part of their drinking regimen.

The most important thing in the end – the taste and purity of the product

It's clear that if you don't like the sports drink, or if it makes you sick because of some added preservatives, then some optimal ion ratios probably won't cut it for you. So read the labels. You probably don't want to buy artificial dyes, a million weird stabilizers and chemicals. It is always better to buy a small sample and judge the taste as well, so that your mouth does not curl when you taste the miracle.

Some people prefer homemade alternatives - for example, you can use yerba mate tea as a base - the IQ mate variant is excellent, you add carbohydrates as needed, it can be a mix of faster and slower ones - for 1 liter of drink, for example, palatinose 20g, maltodextrin 20g and dried cane juice 20g) , a pinch of salt and lemon. You can also add 1g of acetyl-l-carnitine there.

If you don't want to waste time preparing, or if you need something to take with you to the races, you can also buy pure natural ionic hydration drinks from us.

An example is the popular Skratch Labs hydration mixes. There are about 800 mg of sodium per 1 liter of drink, plus potassium and magnesium. Their big plus is that they are flavored only with fruit, they have no preservatives.

If you hate over-sweetened artificials with that weird aftertaste that lingers on your tongue long after you drink it, definitely give Skratch Labs a try. They have a mild fruity taste and, thanks to their purely natural, simple composition, they are also suitable for those with a very sensitive stomach.

This article was originally published on the server , the author is chief editor Iva Kubešová. We also definitely recommend the article What no one tells you about ionizers and gels, or how carbohydrates often hinder performance growth.

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