Research shows that a loss of sweat equal to ONLY 2% of body weight greatly affects your performance through a decrease in power, an increase in muscle fatigue, and the inability to recover and build muscle. There is an excellent article on the Sports Cardiology BC Website which I highly encourage you to read as it will forever change the importance you place on your hydration plan. If you are short on time, here is my bullet-point summary.
So what happens to performance when you are dehydrated?
- A reduction of blood volume = lower Maximal Aerobic Power (V02 Max)
- Increased core temperature = increased rate of glycogen breakdown in the muscles. This, in turn, leads to a greater amount of lactic acid which = muscle fatigue.
- Increased levels of cortisol = lower levels of testosterone aka the muscle-building hormone which is required for recovery and growth.
5 hydration tips that will help improve your performance
1. Create a habit of drinking 300 to 500ml of water every morning when you first wake up. If you had a few alcoholic drinks the night before, add lemon and a pinch of salt and an additional 500ml.
2. Consume at least 300 to 500ml of water 1 to 2 hours before your ride/endurance workout. This is particularly important on hotter days.
3. Replace fluid loss with both water and electrolytes. Evidence shows that hydrating with just water doesn’t replace lost electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride resulting in a dramatic drop in performance. Use a richer mix during the winter (because you are drinking less) and a weaker solution during summer (because you’ll be drinking more).
4. During the ride, drink before you get thirsty. Take small sips every 10 to 15mins whether you want to or not. Ideally, you should aim to drink 1.25 to 1.5 litres of fluid every hour, depending on your body size and how much you sweat. NOTE: For some, this still might not be enough on really hot days.
5. Experiment and find what works for you.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULES
1. During short, intense workouts, such as the weekly Kits Energy workouts, limit your water intake immediately before and during the workout to avoid gastric upset.
2. On cold days avoid consuming large amounts of fluids in the morning as your body will want to reduce the supply of blood going around your body. It will do this by making you want to pee it out as soon as you get your cycling bibs tucked in nicely under all those layers.
If you feel faint, dizzy, or start to get a headache please stop, seek shade and medical assistance ASAP. Dehydration is a serious issue for athletes and can lead to death.