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importance of hydration

When it comes to exercise, hydration is one of the most important aspects of training. On average, a person can lose around 2-3 litres of sweat during a 90 minute intensive session. In hot and humid conditions, in terms of body weight, you could lose as much as 2-3 kg or (4.5-6lb) in the same period of time. This amount of fluid loss is certain to have a negative effect on performance.

In order to compensate for the fluid loss, a person should ideally consume around 200-400ml (7-14 oz) of water or a suitable carbohydrate solution 5 minutes before commencing their session and about 150-250ml every 20 minutes thereafter. Following a hard training session it is important it is essential that the lost fluid be replaced. Water on its own is fine, but you may need a sports drink to replace the depleted energy stores; a high carbohydrate solution may be more appropriate. In certain instances the consumption of water needs to increase beyond the norm. Instances such as when an individual is taking creatine as supplement, in this case the water intake should increase by at least 25- 30% per day.

Choosing the right carbohydrate drink can make all the difference, it can help stabilise blood sugar levels, postpone fatigue and prevent “jelly - like muscles”. Too much carbohydrate or excess sugar levels can hinder performance and will result in a negative effect. So drinks like Coca Cola and regular Lucozade which contain around 40% carbohydrate, are not the most suitable choice for hydration prior to or during exercise. Ideally, a good sports drink should contain 6%-8% carbohydrate and a small portion of salt. Intense exercise can result in depleted sodium levels due to sweating, if it gets too low, symptoms such as headaches, nausea and blurred vision may occur. Adding just a pinch of salt can offset the imbalance.

Sodium is also an electrolyte which helps the passage of water between body compartments whilst balancing the acid base level of the body. Lack of electrolytes has been associated with post workout muscle cramps. Suitable sports drinks include; Lucozade sport, Gatorade, Exceed, High Five, Isotar and Powerade. All of these contain less than 8% carbohydrates. A suitable consumption level would be 200 to 400ml, 5 minutes prior to a workout followed by 150-250ml for every 20 minutes that follow. Within two hours of finishing the event or workout, one should try to consume around 100 to 200gm of carbohydrates. The deficits of carbohydrates in the muscles need to be replaced as quickly as possible after an intense bout. Consumption of these carbohydrates may not be practical or palatable through food so soon after exercise, hence one of the above mentioned drinks may suffice, but this is possibly the one occasion when a high concentration carbohydrate solution may be preferable.

Isotonic sports drinks are becoming more and more popular, endorsed by many professional athletes. These drinks can be expensive. It is just as easy to make your own isotonic drink. Here’s how.

Isotonic drink

Isotonic basically means that the drink contains electrolytes and as mentioned above, 6-8% carbohydrates. To make your own, just add 200ml of concentrated orange juice (orange squash) to 1 litre of water and add 1.25-1.5 teaspoons of salt.

Hypotonic

A hypotonic sports drink, typically contains electrolytes and less carbohydrates, an essential factor in fluid replacement during hot weather. To make your own hypotonic drink, add 100ml of concentrated orange juice to 1 litre of water and add 1.25 – 1.5 teaspoons of tale salt.

Hypertonic drink

Hypertonic drinks, essentially contain a higher level of carbohydrates along with electrolytes again as mentioned above, this is sometime more preferential after a game or a particularly intensive workout. To make your own, just add 400ml of concentrated orange juice to 1 litre of water and add 1.25 – 1.5 teaspoons of salt.

It must be said however, if a well balance diet is maintained then just water to hydrate is sufficient. If the preference is a sports drink, then it should be in line with, and as a part of the total daily consumption levels of nutrition; so incorporated into the daily carbohydrate allowance.

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