Hydration is the process of absorbing water and other liquid by the body. How much fluid you need to stay hydrated depends not only on the intensity and length of the race but also on the altitude, outside temperature and humidity.
Proper hydration is important before, during and after your triathlon race to maintain the balance of fluid and electrolytes in your body.
Dehydration as opposed to hydration is the removal of water from the body through sweating especially during a hot weather race. Every athlete has their own level of dehydration but basically if you feel thirsty your body’s water content is already reduced to an unfavorable level.
An athlete generally feels it on as low as 2% dehydration level. On the other hand over hydration can be as dangerous as dehydration. It can lead to hyponatremia, a condition caused by drinking too much water at one time which dilutes the body’s electrolytes. You may experience symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, dizziness, cramp and severe discomfort.
Importance Of Proper Hydration
The role of water in the body is very complex. It is the major component of all cells, organs and tissues. As a matter of fact, your blood is composed of 92% water. Human blood contains protein called hemoglobin which carries oxygen to individual cells and carbon dioxide to the lungs.
It also transports glucose, amino acids, hormones, vitamins and minerals to different parts of the body. So, you need the right amount of water and other liquid such as energy drinks to function properly especially during the race to support respiration and absorption.
Another function of water and energy drinks during the race is to help regulate body temperature.
You produce a considerable amount of perspiration to prevent your body from overheating. Signs that your body is overheating are headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and change in heart rate caused by heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Water cools down the body while energy drinks replenish lost electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. When you’re properly hydrated you maximize athletic performance when you swim, bike and run.
You have a high level of tolerance for long and intense workouts even under grueling conditions such as hot weather, rough open waters and uphill biking or running. Under these challenging conditions, you should be prepared physically and mentally to achieve the record you aim for either individually or in a group.
Tips on How to Stay Hydrated
Hydration is not a one day project but it starts in your training. Monitoring your liquid requirements while training can help you establish the amount of fluid and electrolytes your body needs for the big event.
You can create a hydration strategy by establishing your tolerance, at what dehydration level you feel the thirst and need to replenish. It determines also which fluid to take either water or energy drink to hydrate and at what phase of the race.
Hydrate one to two hours before the race. Some athletes can drink one hour before the race and don’t feel any side effects. To be on the safe side, include this in your training to get the specific volume and time.
If you know your sweat rate you can take small sips instead of gulping liquid while racing. It is to make sure you only drink the amount you lose to avoid over-hydration.
Energy drinks are best so take in the second phase when you do the biking since it is very convenient to have a bottle attached to your bike. Practice taking it out and putting it back so not to hinder your movement and speed. Make the most of drinking stations especially during a long marathon or triathlon in the heat.
Monitor Your Sweat Rate
Sweat rate is the amount of the fluid loss in volume during a specific period of time and expressed as liters/hour. To calculate the sweat rate, measure your weight before you start to work-out and record it again when you’re done.
Remove your shoes and clothing and dry yourself with towel to get accurate readings. Take note also of how much liquid you drink as you do your routine. Multiply fluid loss with the factor of 1.2 to get the minimum amount of fluid needed for recovery. For example you have the following data for your biking session:
Pre-session weight = 62 kg
Post session weight = 61 kg
Volume of fluid consumed = 500 ml
Number of hours = 2
Factor = 1.2
Note: Assume 1 kg = 1 liter
Fluid loss = pre-session weight – post session weight + volume of fluid consumed
= 62 kg – 61 kg + 0.5 kg
= 1.5 kg or 1.5 liters
Amount of fluid needed for recovery = 1.5 liter x 1.2
= 1.8 liters
Sweat rate = fluid loss ÷ time
= 1.5 liters ÷ 2 hours
= 0.75 liter per hour
Every hour you loss 0.75 liter of liquid for your bike routine. Bear in mind, you lose a different amount of fluid at different phases of the triathlon. So measure your fluid loss for swimming, biking and running then base on it your fluid intake per hour when training and racing.
Generally, you need 0.5 liter when the weather is cool; 0.75 liter when the weather is warm and up to 1.0 liter when it is hot. However, there’s no hard rule to your water intake.
Learn to listen to your body when it gives the sign that you need to rehydrate like dry throat and lips. Be in tune with your body because even the most prepared athlete cannot predict what will happen on the day of the race.
Choose The Right Drinks
What to drink and when to drink is the big hydration question. For short races which take only 90 minutes, water is enough for your pre-race hydration. Drink about 0.5-0.75 liters of water 1 to 2 hours before the race. You might take a few sips just to prevent your mouth from drying when the race is on.
For more than 90 minute events that will last for more than 2 hours, add sodium to water as your pre-race hydration fluid. Choose drinks with minerals, salt and low amount of glucose during the race to balance your electrolytes and up your energy level. The amount should depend on your sweat rate and outside factors such as weather and terrain.
Once you have worked out your hydration needs for training and a race, it’s time to plan out how you manage the fluid intake. On race day there will be plenty of water stops, but these may be at intervals that don’t suit you.
A great alternative is to use a running belt to keep small amounts of water and gels. These can make a huge difference to your performance.