Water is essential for an athlete’s performance and health. Drinking too little water or losing too much through sweat can decrease your ability to train well and recover properly. Did you know water provides more to the body than just hydration. It is also a transporter, supplying muscles with nutrients needed during training. It rids the body of waste products from high intensity training. It also keeps the body cool, evaporating heat through sweat.
The body is about 60% water. The brain is about 70% water. As little as a 2% loss of body fluids from training or going into training when you are already dehydrated hurts performance with decreased ability to concentrate, fatigue and poor recovery. Hydration needs during paddling depend on different factors like an athlete’s pre-training or pre-competition hydration status. Some paddlers sweat more than others. Larger athletes tend to sweat more than smaller athletes. Endurance athletes sweat earlier in exercise and in larger volumes. Sweat losses are higher in hot, humid conditions and increase as exercise intensity increases.
Hydration during training or competition
Research recommends a sport nutrition drink with a 4-8% carbohydrate solution. Juices are not recommended. They are 9-12% carbohydrate solution and can cause gastric distress. Sport drinks rehydrate with water, electrolytes, and calories. Find what drinks work for you by experimenting during practice – not in competition. If you have a sensitive stomach, be aware of caffeine and fructose found in fruit, honey and high-fructose corn syrup.
SUP training ranging from 30-60 minutes at low to moderate intensity, drink water. If you train for more than 60 minutes, have a sports drink. Research recommends drinking about every 15-20 minutes, about 2-4 ounces each time. This requires a conscious effort. Following these recommendations may be a challenge when in a SUP race. That is why purpose built hydration packs are highly recommended.
Thirst is not a reliable cue to drink because thirst is suppressed with intense or exhaustive exercise. This is especially in the heat. Pay attention to body cues and signs like your mouth or throat feeling dry. Drink according to a plan.
Hydration after training or competition
After training, rehydrate for faster recovery. Athletes can create an individualized hydration plan by weighing themselves before and after training. For every pound lost, drink 2.5 cups of fluid. This is far more than one would voluntarily consume so it requires a conscious effort. Once athletes know their sweat rate, they can practice and experiment drinking early in training or competition to minimize dehydration, and comfortably drink larger volumes of fluid.
Replenish body fluids and carbohydrates within 30 minutes after training to maximize recovery. Sport nutrition research shows that a drink with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1 speeds recovery. The added carbohydrates replace the fuel used in training/competition and the protein repairs muscles that were broken down. Recovery drink examples include low fat chocolate milk, Recoverite, Ensure, Boost, Carnation instant breakfast, Resource, and Endurox R4.
An easy method to determine hydration status is urine color. When properly hydrated, urine is the color of lemonade, a pale yellow. Clear urine as a sign of hydration is a misconception. Dark yellow to brownish apple juice colored urine indicates dehydration. Dehydration is a loss of body fluid causing decreased blood volume, less blood pumped by the heart, decreased blood delivered to the exercising muscles and skin, increased waste products (i.e. lactic acid builds up), and an elevated body core temperature. With the rise in body core temperature, the body compensates by working harder and performance suffers.
Caffeine and alcohol
Caffeinated drinks, tea, coffee, and energy drinks are not ideal rehydration choices. Caffeine increases urine loss according to research studies. Rehydrate with non-caffeinated sport drinks first to restore fluid balance, then consider other beverage choices. Alcohol also increases urine loss. Alcoholic beverages of 3% or more by volume are not ideal for rehydration. Alcohol impairs glycogen recovery (glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates) and slows soft tissue damage repair.
Adequate hydration requires planning because thirst and voluntary consumption alone will not restore body fluid levels.
Make hydrating a part of your practice and training.
Begin drinking early in exercise. Practice taking large gulps about every 15-20 minutes.
Have your favorite flavored sport drink at a cool temperature (~60 °F) to encourage plenty of hydration.