Thirsty? Whether it’s a busy schedule, or a tendency to favour an oat milk flat white over a glass of the pure stuff (… guilty as charged!). Research has shown that here in the UK, fewer than 1 in 10 of us are drinking enough water day to day. As performance nutritionist Barbara Cox-Lovesy explained in her recent guest post on 10 ways to improve your performance, water is vital to our health. Water is responsible for regulating all bodily functions, and to name but a few is in charge of cleansing the body, transporting nutrients, removing waste and regulating our body temperature.
With water being so essential just to our basic functioning, you can imagine how important staying hydrated is if you’re leading an active lifestyle. The bottom line is, if you want to train hard and race strong – you’ve got to drink up! Check out our top tips for optimising your hydration…
Day to day hydration tips
Sip little and often through the day
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to grab a drink. By the time we start experiencing thirst cues, our body is already experiencing a level of dehydration. Instead, try to sip little and often throughout the day to maintain your hydration levels rather than gulping down an entire glass when you feel thirsty.
Barbara Cox-Lovesy explains: “The rate of passage of water from your stomach to your intestines depends on how much water is actually in your stomach. If there is lots of fluid, then it is like a flood flowing from your stomach to the intestines. The idea is to have a smaller amount of water, so it drips like a tap into the intestines. Practise sipping often throughout the day. Take 3-4 sips of water every 10 minutes.”
Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake
We get it, coffee is life. And if we’re honest, more often than not here at Stolen Goat HQ we’ll have our favourite Chimney Fire coffee on tap. So we’re not here to come between you and your daily (okay, thrice daily) cup of the good stuff. Just be mindful that drinks containing caffeine or alcohol act as a diuretic, making you pee more often which can contribute to dehydration. It can be easy to fall into the trap of training in the morning and drinking nothing but coffee until lunchtime. If you’re a fellow caffeine addict or partial to a post-ride beer, just make sure you’re also getting enough water at the same time!
Top up your hydration levels by eating fruit and vegetable with a high water content
Water-rich fruit and vegetables such as grapes, watermelon, iceberg lettuce and celery not only help to keep your hydration levels topped up, they’re also a great source of nutrients – which is never a bad thing. Try a handful of grapes and a few slices of watermelon with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of pecans for a great post-training snack rich in water, protein and healthy fats.
Don’t forget about your electrolytes
A key part of adequate hydration is maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium. Electrolytes are essential for muscle function and can quite quickly get depleted when we sweat. Not only do we need electrolytes to perform at our best during training and racing, Barbara Cox-Lovesy also explains that electrolytes “are what fires up activity between your cells – we need that just to have the mental capacity to get us through the day. It’s not just for training.” Whether you’re exercising or not, if it’s a particularly warm day and you’re sweating more than usual it’s always good to use an electrolyte sports drink to make sure you’re keeping everything balanced. Our friends over at Joov have created some delicious tabs which you can get your hooves on right here: Shop Joov hydration tablets
Training and racing in hot conditions: how to manage your hydration when the heat is on
Pre-load with electrolytes before your race or training sessions begins
The importance of starting hydrated can often be underestimated. As the sweat experts over at Precision Hydration explain, “once you begin sweating you’re generally going to be fighting a losing battle against fluid and electrolyte loss, so starting off properly hydrated can be extremely beneficial.”
“Pre-loading” with an electrolyte solution an hour or so before your race or session is a great way to ensure that your body has a reservoir to draw upon straight away when it starts to deplete its stores, so you’re not fire fighting against dehydration.
Continue to take electrolytes on board during your activity
Once your training session or race gets underway, it’s important to keep topping up those electrolyte levels so that your muscles can function optimally and you can perform at your best. If you’ve ever experienced cramp during a session, you’ll know the painful consequences of not getting it right!
It sounds simple, but it can be easy to forget to drink when you’re in race mode or focusing on the training session at hand. If you use a bike computer, you’ll most likely find you can set a reminder up so it beeps at you to drink at set intervals during your ride. Ensure at least one of your bottles contains an electrolyte solution and keep sipping away.
If you struggle to drink enough when you’re running or performing other forms of activity, consider trying other forms of electrolytes such as salt tablets or energy gels which also contain electrolytes. Particularly in Ironman-distance triathlon races, if it’s warm on race day you’ll see people dropping like flies with cramp and dehydration by the time they get to the marathon course. Get your hydration strategy right, and you’ll be flying through the field and hitting that finish line carpet feeling strong.
When you’re training and racing in the heat, or even just training indoors on Zwift, you’ll be sweating a lot more than usual and losing far more salts. Rehydrating and replenishing your electrolyte stores is key at all times, but even more so if it’s been a scorcher.
It can be easy to cross the finish line or hit stop on your bike computer and be more preoccupied with getting your hooves on that snack you’ve promised yourself and that ice cold pint of something delicious (and definitely not hydrating) that you’ve earned. This will slow down your recovery and leave you at risk of feeling sluggish and dehydrated later in the day. Get that post-race treat, just don’t forget to sip a sports drink too!
THE HYDRATION STATION
From bottles that are easy to swig from, to our favourite Joov hydration tabs. Our supersoft turbo towels for mopping sweaty brows to our swimwear for cooling off after a sweaty session. Check out our hydration essentials…