Fluid replacement is one of the most important factors affecting exercise performance. While many coaches, trainers, and athletes of today are becoming more knowledgeable about the roles that fluid plays, it is often an overlooked component of competition.

Sweating is the primary way in which the body cools itself during exercise. When more fluid is lost through sweating than is replaced by drinking, we become dehydrated. By the time your brain signals thirst, you may have lost 1% of your body weight, which is the equivalent of approximately 680g of sweat for a 70kg person. This 1% loss corresponds with the need for your heart to beat an additional three to five times per minute. A 2% loss can significantly hurt your performance, and can lead to heat exhaustion or eventually heat stroke.

Common Signs of Dehydration

As an athlete becomes dehydrated, heart rate increases and body temperature can rise to dangerous levels. Some signs to look for include:

  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry mouth
  • Stop sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling light headed
  • Confusion
  • Urine Colour (See chart below)

A hydration urine chart can also be used to give you an idea to whether you are drinking enough water. Simply match your urine colour to the chart below and see if you're hydrated or severely dehydrated. Your target is to get at least 2 urines at level 1-3 per day.

Fluid Replacement

Fluid replacement is one of the most important factors affecting exercise performance. While many coaches, trainers, and athletes of today are becoming more knowledgeable about the roles that fluid plays, it is often an overlooked component of competition.

Sweating is the primary way in which the body cools itself during exercise. When more fluid is lost through sweating than is replaced by drinking, we become dehydrated.

Why not rely on thirst?

  • Your body’s thirst mechanism can be an unreliable signal to drink because exercise can blunt thirst; plan to drink before you are thirsty.
  • By the time your brain signals thirst, you may have lost 1% of your body weight, which is the equivalent of approx. 680g of sweat for a 70kg person. This 1% loss corresponds with the need for your heart to beat an additional three to five times per minute. A 2% loss can significantly hurt your performance, and can lead to heat exhaustion or eventually heat stroke.
  • Your sports uniform and equipment can hinder the body’s ability to dissipate heat. To be safe, always drink enough to quench your thirst, plus a little more.

Avoiding Dehydration

Ideally, pre and post exercise body weights should be the same, indicating that intake has equaled output. This is rarely the case, however. Remember that weight loss during exercise represents fluid loss and not fat loss!

Weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every 1kg lost, drink 1L of fluid.

  1. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every kg lost, drink 1L of fluid.
  2. Always drink fluids before, during, and after exercise.

Hydration Tips for Better Performance

  • Make sure your beverages are cool (15 degrees or below), and contain a little bit of sodium where possible (this enhances the intake of fluid into your body)
  • Isotonic sports drinks are perfect during exercise (drinking water does not stimulate fluid intake to the same extent as a sports drink)
  • Train yourself to drink water throughout the day. Set a reminder if you constantly forget until it becomes a habit.

Alcohol + Athletes = Poor Performance

Alcohol has a wide variety of negative effects on the body. Moderate consumption of alcohol can inhibit motor skills and physical performance; chronic use may cause muscle damage, and weakness. The bottom line: regular consumption of alcohol (3-4 days/week) and more than 2-3 drinks, can decrease or prevent improvement in strength and performance.

Alcohol has been named the most abused drug by athletes. Each gram of alcohol provides seven calories. If you are trying to maintain or lose weight, consumption of alcohol can make reaching that goal very difficult. One serving of alcohol is considered: 1 ½ cups of beer, 150ml of wine, and 44ml liquor.

Drink More Water

The importance of proper hydration cannot be overstated. All it takes is consistency on your behalf and i have no doubt you will reap the benefits of better recovery, fewer cramps and headaches and better performance.