Hydration Strategies for Optimal Performance

  • Published
  • By Kristen David
  • Health Promotion Program Dietitian

Optimal hydration supports daily training and recovery. When you are dehydrated it can take hours to days to recover properly. There are many ways you can stay on top of your hydration so that you can perform at your best and recover optimally.

The three indicators used to monitor your own hydration status are waking weight, color of urine and thirst level. Your urine color should be a light to pale yellow resembling lemonade. Waking weight should not change more than 1% between each day (to determine this you will need to take your weight each morning without clothes on and calculate the percentage difference). Thirst is measured by a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked if you feel thirsty in which ‘yes’ is not normal. If two or more of these simple markers are outside the normal range, it is likely that you are dehydrated. It is important to start making steps in your daily hydration routine to avoid this from happening.

When training intensifies, or while training in hot temperatures, you have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated, due to losing more water and electrolytes in your sweat. Make sure you follow a hydration plan before, during and after training. It is recommended to consume 14-22 ounces of fluid two hours prior to exercise, 8-16 ounces of fluid 15-20 minutes prior to exercise, 4-16 oz of fluid every 15 minutes during exercise, and 16-24 oz fluid per pound of body weight lost after exercise. Fluid loss should be replaced in the first two hours after workout. 

Make sure to choose the right kind of drinks throughout the day that will support your energy, performance and help you maintain a healthy weight. The best options are water, unsweetened ice tea, herbal teas, coconut water and sparkling water. Try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar such as soda, juices, high sugar coffee drinks, slushies and energy drinks. These and other high sugar beverages will cause an insulin spike, which will lead to a drop in your blood glucose making you feel tired and fatigued. This can lead to weight gain, and low energy levels can put you at risk for exercise induced injury.

If consuming caffeine, keep your daily intake under 400 mg per day. Consuming large amounts of caffeine can cause irritability, high blood pressure and dehydration. Energy drinks can also contain some added stimulants that may cause vomiting, nausea, heart palpitations and can interact negatively with certain medications. If you are trying to boost your performance during endurance exercise by adding caffeine, it is best to stick to natural sources like coffee or tea so there are no added stimulants.

Increase your overall water intake throughout the day to help you perform at your absolute best. Here are some tips to do so:

  1. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. You will be more likely to drink water if you have it in front of you.
  2. Replace at least one sugary beverage with water per day to start and build on that each following week.
  3. Eat more water-rich fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, melons, celery, and romaine lettuce.
  4. Add your own natural flavor to water to make it more appetizing by adding a tablespoon of natural juice or using a water fruit infuser bottle.
  5. Log your water intake on your phone by using an app such as “Waterlogged” or “MyFitnessPal”.
  6. Some people are “salty sweaters” meaning that they lose more sodium in their sweat than normal. This can be determined by salty marks on your skin and clothes or if your sweat tastes salty or burns your eyes.  If you are a salty sweater, it is recommended to add salt to foods, eat a salty snack before a workout and replace losses with salty food or soups after a workout.

For more information on hydration for performance or other nutrition strategies please contact Kirsten David at kirsten.m.david.ctr@mail.mil or 505-846-1483.