How to optimise your hydration

So you already know that hydration is important (if you don’t, head back over to here first!), but if you are struggling to actually achieve it – it may be because it isn’t as easy as simply thinking ‘drink more water’.

Us humans are a bit lazy, so even when we know something is important and good for us, it doesn’t necessarily mean we do it! So how can you optimise your hydration for your best performance in your daily training and match day.

Is water the best option?

All types of fluid provide us with an opportunity to add to our hydration. Even soups can play a role!

As a first port of call, water is your essential. It is convenient, adaptable, accessible, cheap and transportable. For most situations, it is going to provide you will all you need for your daily fluid needs.

We may start considering electrolytes if we are needing to replace heavy losses of sweat and electrolytes (and to help you absorb as much fluid as possible in the hot weather). However, it is important to remember that electrolyte is only about hydration – it doesn’t contain carbohydrate to contribute to fuelling.

If you are in need of hydration and fuelling, sports drink can be something to consider. Times sports drink may be considered over water would be around high intensity sessions or games where you have high fluid and carbohydrate needs; or in really hot and humid temperatures where your body has a high need for fluids and a bigger dependence on carbohydrates as well!

But I don’t love water?

If water isn’t your thing, or you find it hard to keep on top of, I reckon we can assume you either don’t enjoy it or you don’t have it in an obvious or easy spot for you – remember the lazy bit yeah? So it is important we remove as many friction pieces to the equation as possible!

To make it enjoyable, buy a drink bottle that you love drinking out of, or place ice in the water to make it more palatable. If it is the flavour you are getting use to, the iced tea bags or adding fruit to infuse in the water is a really easy way to make things more enticing (and exciting!)

To make it obvious, we need to set up an auto prompt as much as possible so that you are simply adding your water drinking habit to a habit (action) you are already doing that day.

E.g.

Every time I eat a meal or snack, I have a glass of water with it.

When I grab my phone and keys to leave the house, I take a drink bottle with me as well.

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Space it out!

It can be tempting to play catch up with your drinks – chugging bottles at the end of the day when you realise you haven’t kept on top of it over the morning. However, when we do this, our body doesn’t tend to hold onto it as well and we are likely just to need to quickly go to the loo!

To help your body absorb and best use your fluid over the day, aim to space your drinks out over the day. Sipping on your drink bottle throughout the day and including cups of water the water with each meal and snack – especially as the salts in your food with further help you absorb that water as salt and water are inseparable mates!

Is there such thing as too much?

In very rare circumstances, you can end up over-hydrated. Usually this is in cold environments or when the exercise intensity is really low. Over-hydration leads to dilution of sodium in the blood stream which can result in disorientation, headaches, and even coma or death.

This is where it is important to balance intentional and planned hydration alongside trusting thirst. When weather is cool and cold, your sweat losses are lower and your thirst will likely reflect that. Lower intensity sessions also give you plenty more opportunity for drink breaks, so be aware if you find yourself increasing weight over a session or match.

How to make sure you’re hydrated

In our ‘All Things Hydration’ chat, we spoke a bit about judging your hydration on your wee colour. It is quick, easy and something that is always available to use as a guide – no fancy equipment needed!

However, you may also have seen urine be tested by what is called a USG (Urine Specific Gravity) test. This measures the ‘gravity or weight/density of your wee compared to water. Basically the more concentrated and darker the wee – the higher the USG measure.

Below we’ve outlined the different estimated urine colours for you, along with how you could consider managing your re-hydration in that moment. As always, this is just a guide and should not replace individual advice – so please reach out to a Sports Dietitian for individual support.

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If you’re struggling to keep on top of your hydration, noticing the performance effects of dehydration, or just a bit overwhelmed by it all, reach out for help. Support (we promise) won’t just be a prescription of the amount of water to drink, but rather how to set up your environment to make sustaining optimal hydration feel achievable.

You can learn more about working with a Compeat Sports Dietitian here.

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