Hydration for health & performance

Currently there is hot weather in Australia (+45 degrees in Queensland) and cold temperatures in France (-15 degrees in the Alps) which leads us to consider the importance of hydration in different climates. Rehydrating comes more naturally when it is hot as thirst receptors respond well in warmer climates. When the body is cold, our bodies ability to sense the onset of dehydration and thirst receptor function decreases which makes us more susceptible to dehydration.

It is common knowledge that being hydrated will make you feel better in general terms, not just during exercise. Hydration is important for almost every function in the body, especially for the brain, heart and muscles.

In cooler weather drinks such as herbal teas can be a great replacement of a cold glass of water. However, hydration is not just about drinking fluids. It’s also the inclusion of electrolytes to help keep us performing at our best.

The body uses electrolytes to help regulate nerve and muscle functions and maintain the right amount of alkalinity. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorides, phosphates and iron. These are usually maintained adequately by a varied diet of proteins, fruits, and vegetables but excessive perspiration can lead to a loss of salt (sodium chloride) and so some additional electrolytes, in small amounts, can be added to ones drink. We like the sugar free versions such as “Power bar 5 Electrolytes Zero Calorie Sports Drink” which comes as a tablet that dissolves in your water. A great natural electrolyte balancer is a cup of hot water with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt.

It’s obvious to keep topping up the fluids and electrolytes when we are hot and sweaty but a few hours on the ski slopes can also lead to dehydration.

Drinking small amounts regularly is the best way for the body to absorb fluid and electrolytes and minimize the risk of dehydration. When we do get to the point of thirst it is the body’s way of saying “I’m dehydrated”. Another tool is keeping an eye on the color of your urine and aim for clear liquid! But remember these are tools only, you must rely on common sense as well. Remember that colder weather will impact on your thirst receptors and drinking caffeine or alcohol will impact on your bodies urine production, so totally relying on these two methods to monitor your hydration is not encouraged.

In an Ironman triathlon, I would to set my watch to beep every 10minutes to remind me to take a sip of my drink. As well as taking small drinks often to minimize dehydration, it also helped to pass the time quickly!

On the bike, it’s easy to carry a drink, running is a little more difficult but there are some great pieces of equipment on the market that make it very doable.

When skiing, consider carrying a back pack with a drink, and if you stop for a coffee or hot chocolate grab a water too.

If going to classes such as Spinning or if you’re off to the gym, take your bottle and aim to drink one before, 1 during and one after!

Here’s cheers to good hydration & better health!