By Nicole Dynan (APD/ASD)

Even a small amount of dehydration can affect your mental and physical performance, so staying well hydrated during training and competition can help you to perform at your best.

Household heating and air-conditioning as well as sweating all contribute to dehydration. And thirst may not always be a good indicator of how much you need to drink; if you are thirsty, you can already be dehydrated enough to impair your performance.

Here are my top tips to stay hydrated for your training and competition:

1.       Drink small and regular amounts of water throughout the day. Most of us should be aiming to drink around 2-3 L (this does not include what you drink around training).

2.       Use your urine as a guide. Dark-coloured urine of a relatively small volume is an indication of dehydration and should signal you to drink more fluids throughout the day or during your run. 

3.       Start your activity well hydrated. Drink 200-600ml immediately before training starts. Leave time to visit the bathroom before your event. Then, begin drinking early in the session and continue to take in small amounts regularly. Most athletes can tolerate 200-300 ml every 15-20 minutes but this will vary according to body size and exercise intensity.

4.       Have a plan. For any exercise session greater than 30 minutes, you should have a fluid intake plan. Conduct a simple sweat test to estimate your own personal fluid requirements. Weighing yourself before and after exercise can help you to gauge your fluid needs. Any weight loss corresponds with fluid loss. A kilogram loss of body weight represents a need for 1.5 Litres of fluid to be replaced, to account for fluid lost as urine. This should all be replaced within 4-6 hours after your activity. A weight increase could indicate that you are drinking more than you need.

5.       Use sports drinks. When training sessions are of high intensity or last longer than 60 minutes, sports drinks can help replace lost electrolytes.

Remaining dehydrated after exercise can slow down your recovery because blood and body fluids help to bring nutrients to your tissues for repair and remove any waste products. During the hottest time of the year, you not only need a hydration plan for each training session but also a plan to prevent cumulative dehydration over many sessions.

Day-to-day hydration plan

1. Drink a 400 ml of water with breakfast every morning.

2. Drink 2-3 L of fluid each day (this does not include what you drink around training).

3. Drink little and often. 

4. Avoid fizzy drinks and adding sugar to caffeinated beverages.

5. Drink no more than 2-3 cups of tea and coffee each day.  

6. Avoid caffeine and alcohol immediately after training.  

Avoiding over-hydration ‘hyponatraemia’

Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low (Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that's in and around your cells). It can occur from drinking excessive amounts of water before and during prolonged exercise. Hyponatraemia can lead to nausea and vomiting, headaches, muscle weakness or cramps, brain swelling, seizures and coma.

Including sports drinks before and during exercise lasting longer than one hour can reduce your risk of hyponatraemia.

Adjust your training

Exercising early in the morning when the temperature is lower or choosing an air conditioned gym on extreme weather days will assist in adhering to your planned training schedule.

Pre-cooling or reducing your body temperature before exercising in hot weather has also been shown to preserve performance on hot days as it will delay body heat accumulation. Cooling vests with pockets for ice packs are a convenient way to achieve this (http://www.icevests.com.au/ ).

Home-made Cool Electrolyte Drink

Research has shown that fluid intake is improved when drinks are chilled (~15 °C), flavoured and contain sodium (salt).  This makes this home-made sports drink an ideal choice during exercise.  

Ingredients:

4 cups water (can substitute with coconut water)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1- 2 tablespoons honey (to taste preference)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed of lemon juice
1/2 cup dark cherry juice (no added sugar)
1/2 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed if available)

Directions: 

Pour 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan and heat to boiling, remove from heat, add honey and salt and stir until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients to a large jug, pour in water with honey and salt, stir and refrigerate. Drink before, during and after your runs, especially in the warm weather.