Hydration for High-Intensity Exercise in the Heat
As the temperature rises this summer, being properly hydrated for your workouts is essential for safety and performance. The reality is that MOST people are chronically dehydrated and this can lead to a number of issues. However it is important to be aware that there are dangers associated with over-hydration as well. Regardless of whether you’re guzzling a gallon of water or barely drinking 12oz of water throughout the day, read up, because there is information here for you.
Dehydration is defined as an excessive loss of body-water with an associated disruption of metabolic processes. Severe levels of dehydration can be life-threatening resulting in heat-stroke and possibly even death. While most of us will never reach these levels of dehydration, most of us will experience the performance decreases associated with minor levels of dehydration. Research has shown that even as little as a 2% loss of water can result in a 4% decrease in strength or aerobic performance performance. That means if your 1RM back squat at optimal hydration levels is 300#, then at 2% dehydration your 1RM would be 285# (yes I rounded, but either way it sucks!). Minor levels of dehydration also result in muscle-tissue stiffness leading to a decrease in mobility and an increased risk of muscle-strain injury.
- Increased risk of heat-stroke
- Decreased strength and endurance performance
- Increased muscle-tissue stiffness
- Decreased mobility
- Increased risk of strain injuries
Hyponatremia is defined as an electrolyte disturbance where the sodium concentration in the blood is lower than normal. Hyponatremia can result in a range of metabolic and nervous system issues that often resemble dehydration. Hyponatremia can occur during exercise when athletes are losing excessive amounts of salt and other electrolytes through sweat coupled with drinking excessive quantities of water. This is commonly seen in inexperienced endurance runners who are drink only water at aid stations essentially diluting their blood sodium concentration to below physiological levels. Hyponatremia is easy to prevent by consuming an electrolyte solution occasionally during exercise.
As an athlete I am constantly aware of the impact my hydration status can have on performance. I can usually tell that I am dehydrated pretty early in my warm-up, I notice that I’m not sweating very easily and its taking me longer to get loosened up. At this point it is probably too late to get re-hydrated for that training session but my immediate response is to drink an electrolyte solution in an effort to prevent further dehydration. The reality is that an ounce of prevention is worth 24oz of cure. In other words - deal with your hydration needs before your workout, because once you start its difficult to correct dehydration.
- Drink at least ½ your body-weight in ounces daily (this is #1 most important!) Keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day is a good way to achieve that many ounces.
- Utilize electrolyte solutions like NutriForce Balanced Hydration mixed with 12-24oz of water 30-60min before your workout to help prevent both dehydration and hyponatremia
- Creatine monohydrate MAY increase total-body water and prevent dehydration during exercise in the heat, however this is highly individual
- Research shows people drink more cold water during exercise versus room temperature, bring ice water to your workout to keep it cold
- If you are exercising for extended periods of time (90min+) consider adding an electrolyte solution to your water during exercise
- The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink. In order to quantify how much water you need to replace, weigh yourself before and after your workout and drink 16oz of water for each pound lost during exercise
- Avoid alcohol immediately post-workout as alcohol will contribute to dehydration, deal with your hydration needs first, then enjoy the post-WOD festivities
- Caffeine in your pre-workout drink is a diuretic, if you’re consuming a caffeine infused pre-workout make sure you’re increasing your water consumption
Kyle Ruth M.S., CSCS, CFL-1, USAW-L1
WOD SuperStore Athlete
President: Accelerate Athletics Inc.
Owner: Crossfit LKN
- Ashley Kelly