Fluid is Fluid? A Lesson in Hydration

Why's that baby look so angry?

The weather for the second half of this week around the DC Metro area promises to be a bear! The kind of bear that brings high humidity and high temperatures with it. Yuck-o.

In honor of it really feeling like summer, I’ve put together a bit of a hydration survival guide (you can take that literally, by the way) for strength and power athletes:

Hydration and Strength:

  • A sweat-induced body weight loss of 2% during a training session can result in a significant performance decline. Strength, power, and overall performance will suffer.
  • A sweat-induced body weight loss of 4% or more during a training session begins to cause physiologic strain resulting in increased core body temperature, heart rate, and perceived effort.
  • Try to stay ahead of trouble by consuming fluids throughout a training session. Rather than simply attempting to replace lost weight via water and sports drinks after the session is over.
  • Athletes involved in multiple practices or training sessions in a single day need to take their hydration seriously as a domino effect of declining performance can occur from one training session to the next.

    He's closing in on a 4% loss.

How Much is Enough?

  • Depending on training status, fitness level, body size, training intensity, and heat acclimation status, athletes tend to sweat at a rate of 0.5-2.0L per hour (that’s liters! 2 liters an hour… let it sink in).
  • To prepare to enter a training session well hydrated, consume at least 1L or 34 ounces of fluid the day before exercising AND/OR consume 14-20 ounces 2 hours before training session begins and continuing to ingest fluids throughout session.
  • Exercise lasting less than 90-minutes really only warrants water as a sufficient source of hydration.
  • Exercise beyond 90-minutes should include a carbohydrate sports beverage to provide both fluid replacement and a fuel source for the working muscles.
  • The addition of electrolytes – even though marketing companies will have you believe otherwise – are unnecessary for most strength/power athletes as their diet covers this base. However, when acclimating to extremely hot/humid conditions or if you are in a negative caloric balance, electrolyte addition can be a good idea.
  • Consider taking in fluids during practice/training in the same quantity and timing that you will during competition.
  • During hot/humid conditions it is a good idea to take your body weight before and after exercise. Then replace each pound lost with 24 ounces of fluid.

    Professional athletes make a practice of weighing themselves before and after training.

What Counts as Fluid?

  • Anything that is safe for human consumption has fluid in it and counts towards total daily fluid intake (check out the table below, all those amounts add up). Plus, things like coffee, tea, and *gasp* even soda count, too (counting as fluid is different from what is optimal to consume, by the way).
  • Men should take in 128 ounces (3.8L) of fluid each day.
  • Women should take in 88 ounces (2.6L) of fluid each day.
  • Check out the fluid content of some common foods:
Cucumber (1 large) 10 oz
Watermelon (1 wedge) 9 oz
Asian pear (1 large) 8 oz
Chicken noodle soup (1 cup) 8 oz
Corn (1 cup) 7 oz
Salad (1.5 cups) 7 oz
Lowfat yogurt (1 cup) 6 oz
Lowfat cottage cheese (1 cup) 6 oz
Baked beans (1 cup) 6 oz
Baked potato (1 medium) 5 oz
Brown rice (1 cup) 5 oz
Grapes (1 cup) 5 oz
Apple (1 medium) 4 oz
Oatmeal (1 cup) 4 oz
Orange (1 medium) 4 oz

You’ll probably have a tough time staying cool for the rest of the week, but hopefully this helps keep you well hydrated. Good luck!