June 22, 2021

NUTRITION    |     DEIDRE BLOOMQUIST   |     06/22/21

At a glance

Focusing on water intake and hydration is often one of the most simple nutritional habits to put in place, but one that is truly vital for all athletes in order to perform their best, recover properly, and promote overall health in the body. 

Water is the most common nutrient deficiency with over 75% of us being chronically dehydrated. This happens as a result of low water intake in addition to high levels of diuretic consumption. So how does this effect our athletic performance? First, we need to understand the roles of water in the body.

The Role of water in the body

Water Provides energy

Water increases the amount of nutrients moved into cells, as well as improves oxygen distribution. For athletes, this means being able to circulate oxygenated blood to muscles in the body during exercise effectively in order to sustain the physical activity. It also means that nutrients are able to move into and out of cells during exercise to provide energy and avoid energy crashes or muscle fatigue. If you’re eating the perfect pre-workout meal to fuel your workout without being properly hydrated, your cells will struggle to receive those nutrients in a timely manner.

water Helps Joint Pain

Water serves as lubrication for joints and cushions bones and joints during exercise. Joint pain regularly bothering you during your workouts? You might be dehydrated. While there are several factors when it comes to joint pain, including inflammation, connective tissue, and mineral balance, hydration plays a vital role in ensuring your joints are able to move freely through the range of motion without pain or discomfort.

Water protects your lungs

Water protects your lungs by moistening inhaled air.This might sound silly, but do you remember the last time you had the “Fran cough?” The feeling post-workout that gives you a cough that lasts the rest of the day as your lungs are fatigued post-workout is the result of dehydration during your workout when the lungs were under significant stress. Hydrating prior to these intense workouts (and all workouts) ensures that you don’t have lasting effects on your lungs by keeping them safe, even in the toughest of workouts.

water increases communication in the body 

Water increases the communication between cells, including nerves and muscles.Water is a conductor in the body and emphasizes electrical currents sent by nerves to create movement. This is important as the level of the brain, as well as the muscles when we are asking them to fire rapidly with high volume during exercise. This communication can slow down without proper hydration, and ultimately lead to early onset muscle failure.

What do the signs of dehydration look like?

Early signs of dehydration include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Cramping
  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Signs of chronic dehydration include:

  • Heartburn
  • Joint Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Migraines
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Constipation
  • Colitis

How to stay hydrated

Ensuring you are hydrated not only means avoiding these symptoms of dehydration, but also ensures you’re able to reach peak physical fitness as an athlete on a daily basis. 

To determine your optimal water intake, take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. This is your base level of hydration needs on a daily basis. You’ll also want to take into consideration any diuretic beverages and multiply the ounces of those beverages times 1.5 and add this to your daily intake goal. 

Body weight in pounds / 2 + Ounces of Diuretics x 1.5 = Total Daily Water Intake  

A diuretic is anything that removes water from the body, and they include many common beverages such as coffee, caffeine-containing teas, and soda are all diuretic. This ultimately means they are not contributing to your water intake for the day since they are actually promoting further dehydration. 

In addition to this, beverages such as fruit juices and other sugar-y beverages should not be included in contributing to your water intake for the day. 

 While the majority of us are dehydrated, it’s also important to know your overall water needs on a daily basis in order to avoid hyponatremia, or water intoxication, where water levels are too high in the cells to due increased fluid retention or increased sodium loss. Our cells have a delicate balance for determining proper hydration, and too much water can ultimately be a bad thing.

Water timing around workouts

In addition to getting enough total water intake throughout the day, it’s important to use a nutrient timing strategy for water intake similar to how you might do this for energy needs around your workout. Using water in a nutrient timing strategy ensures both optimal performance as well as recovery. 

In the hour prior to beginning a workout, aim to consume between 8-16 ounces of water. This will pre-load the system to be hydrated, ensuring cell communication to water is primed, as well as provide lubrication to joints for exercise. 

During exercise, aim to consume an additional 8 ounces of water if you are working out for one hour, with an additional 6-8 ounces of water being consumed for every additional hour thereafter. Consider how much you are sweating during your workout and remember that we need to replenish those water stores in order to avoid dehydration. 

After your workout, aim to get another 8 ounces of water in the hour after completion to replenish any lost stores of water and promote recovery by ensuring cells are able to accept nutrients for muscle recovery and repair. If you’re not a fan of the “taste of water” or need to flavor your water to make it more appealing and easy to consume, use a sugar-free option to do so. Using a clean BCAA product (aka ours!) to flavor your water is also a great way to ensure you’re getting a steady stream of amino acids throughout the day to promote optimal protein levels and support muscle recovery, all while making your water taste good too.

Water in your athletic routine

While water may seem like low-hanging fruit when it comes to your health and nutrition, it’s truly one of the most foundational staples of ensuring your success as an athlete in reaching your performance goals. Without water, all of the more complex nutritional strategies become less effective. Know your water intake goals, track your intake daily, and be aware of signs of dehydration to ensure water intake becomes a lasting habit in your athletic routine.

Hydration for Athletes

Deidre Bloomquist 

Functional Nutritionist based in Denver, Colorado. Certified L3 CrossFit Trainer who loves working with athletes on performance and health goals.  

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