HOW TO PREVENT DEHYDRATION
Preventing dehydration can be a simple and complicated process and depends on a multitude of factors such as:
1. Environmental Conditions
2. Length of Exercise
3. Individual Physiology
4. Intensity of Exercise
6. Re-hydration Strategies
To truly understand dehydration and how to prevent it, you need to understand, consider and implement these factors both individually and combined.
As you would know, when the temperature is higher, in general you will sweat more. This is a basic physiological process the body uses to help cool down your core temperature. As the temperature rises, so will your sweat rate, which can have huge implementation on your overall hydration (body fluid levels). Humidity plays the same role, as the humidity rises, so will your sweat rate. These environmental factors are very import to consider especially if you are exercising or racing over an extended period of time. Some races, such as an Ironman, start in the morning and go well into the afternoon/night for some athletes. With a race of such length, you need to take into consideration the temperature and humidity changes throughout the day to make sure you are correctly rehydrating sufficient amounts of water and electrolytes. From doing 100 and 100’s of sweat tests, we know athletes sweat at different rates, so athletes with higher sweat rates and sodium loss should look to race in environments where the overall temperature is going to be cooler and humidity lower, allowing them to race at their best.
Length of Exercise:
The longer you exercise, the more sweat you are going to lose and the higher your chances are of becoming dehydrated. This also depends on your intensity of exercise. The higher your intensity or the longer you maintain the same intensity the higher the risk of dehydration. If you exercise or race in events under 60 minutes, you have a very low chance of becoming severely dehydrated compared to if you race for 8 hours. This is due to a simple compounding effect of losing the same amount of body fluids each hour over multiple hours.
Your individual physiology plays a vital role in your sweat rate, electrolyte loss and your ability to perform in a dehydrated state. We have seen through sweat testing so many athletes that no two athletes have the same physiology, so it’s important for you to understand your numbers (sweat rate (L/H), sodium loss (mg/L, total sodium loss (mg/H) & body weight loss (%/H). Once you know your individual numbers, you have the ability to create a hydration plan. A hydration plan will ensure you can replace the greatest amount of fluids and electrolytes which will minimize your risk of suffering from symptoms of dehydration.
Intensity of Exercise:
As your intensity increases, so will your bodies energy requirements, which in turn increases your overall body temperature. To maintain and cool your body’s temperature, your body will sweat. Controlling your intensity will help manage your sweat rate and allow you to limit your risks of dehydration. Once you become dehydrated, at a certain severity, your body will force you to lower your intensity as it has exhausted its own ability to maintain your core temperature and perform other normal physiological functions required for you to exercise or race at your set intensity.
A staggering amount of athletes suffer from chronic dehydration. This is a process that can occur over weeks, months and years where athletes are exposed to excessive and regular exercise sessions in which they do not rehydrate correctly, sitting in office’s (dry, warm environments) or working in labour intensive jobs etc. As a result of being chronically dehydrated, a lot of athletes start a race already in a dehydrated state. To ensure you prepare for every training session and every race, you should focus on regularly drinking fluids, especially fluids that contain electrolytes e.g. Prodrate. Electrolytes will ensure the fluids are absorbed and held in your body, and not just passed in your gastrointestinal or urinary systems. Leading up to a race, you should increase you hydration 2-3 days prior, to ensure your body is in a state of supersaturation and optimal hydration.
It is nearly impossible to replace all of the fluids you lose during exercise. This is especially the case over longer periods of racing and training. The main limiting factor is your body’s ability to absorb fluids and electrolytes without suffering from gastrointestinal upsets. This will mainly occur during periods of exercise, as your body will prioritize blood flow to your working muscles, and slow down your gastro intestinal tracts ability to absorb fluids and electrolytes. Knowing your numbers can ensure you can plan a rehydration strategy to replace the correct amount of fluids and electrolytes based on your own body’s individual physiology while avoiding any gastrointestinal upsets.
As you can see, all 6 of these factors play fundamental roles in dehydration. So if you feel you may be suffering from dehydration and want to improve your race results, we suggest completing an individual sweat test so you can understand your individual numbers. This will help you create an effective hydration plan for training and racing to ensure you are performing at your highest level.
Pro4mance offers sweat testing kits which allow you to perform your own sweat tests at home or in any environment you choose. Once you send back your sweat samples, we will analyse them, and provide you with a sweat report with all of your numbers and a hydration document to explain how to use and implement your results. To find out more about sweat testing click here.