Fitness & diet, Health & Fitness

Hydration: the healthy way to improve performance

Is good hydration just a matter of drinking water? Focus on the importance of hydration in sports, discover its challenges and the best practices for your training. By keeping in mind how the body uses water, you will learn how to optimize your water intake to stay in top shape and improve your performance.

Why is hydration so important?

hydrate drink thirsty man bottle water

The body is composed of 60% water. It is present in every cell and essential for all the vital functions of the organism:

  • Stabilization of body temperature
  • Lubrication of the joints
  • Digestion of food: water serves as a solvent to extract nutrients
  • Distribution of nutrients in the body, especially via the bloodstream
  • Elimination of waste products
  • Transport of immune cells via lymph and blood to fight infections
  • Management of cognitive functions: memory, attention, mood and so on.
  • Skin and hair health: healing, wound healing, slowing down skin ageing (wrinkles)
  • Various other functions

On a daily basis, an adult should absorb about 2.5 litres of water, of which 1 to 1.5 litres is liquid with the rest coming from food. If it is important to keep this order of magnitude in mind, hydration must be adapted to each person according to their physical activity, environmental conditions, state of health, body type and so on.

Hydration: the right amount at the right time

woman glass indoor drink water

The body has a warning system in case of a lack of water: the sensation of thirst. The problem is that it intervenes too late once the body is already deficient in water. Take the lead by adopting good habits that will quickly become reflexes. Whatever your lifestyle, consider these glasses of water to be indispensable every day:

  • Within an hour of waking up
  • Before each meal
  • One hour before bedtime

Next, routinely add a few glasses of water when it is hot (but also if you are indoors all day in a heated space).

All you have to do is take into account your energy expenditure. Here are the basics of good sports hydration:

  • Before the effort: drinking water regularly 2 hours before a physical effort helps the body to prepare itself. A few days before a major event, gradually increase your water intake.
  • During exercise: it is advisable to drink 150 to 200 ml of water every 15 minutes, starting in the first 15 minutes.
  • After the effort: you must start the process of rehydrating your body without delay. In small quantities, regular intake of water will allow the body to evacuate waste, replenish spent glycogen and repair muscle damage.

Compensate for water loss to avoid dehydration

hydrate dehydrate drink thirst water

Drinking is an essential part of staying healthy, and also one of the driving forces behind physical performance. Dehydration of 2% of body weight represents a 20% decrease in performance! It can be associated with various disorders: cramps, decreased energy, loss of minerals, dizziness, increased risk of injury and more.

As muscle contractions generate heat, the body secretes sweat to regulate its temperature. During intense activity, water loss in the form of perspiration can exceed 1 litre per hour. 

To compensate for this water loss, it is important to drink more, of course, but also to take a few steps to conserve the water absorbed:

  • Cover your head in summer
  • Protect your skin from the sun
  • Wear warm clothes in winter
  • During hot weather, wet your neck and forehead
  • Other measures

Good practices for staying well hydrated

To be easily absorbed by the body, water should be at a temperature of between 8 and 15°C. It can be supplemented with a little sugar during sustained effort. Tea and drinks containing antioxidants are also excellent alternatives.

In the case of a prolonged effort, an energy drink can help to compensate for the loss of carbohydrates and minerals suffered by the body. These sports drinks contain sugars in the form of glucose, fructose or maltodextrin (a carbohydrate supplement derived from the processing of wheat or corn starch). They are also enriched with sodium (which retains water), to promote muscle recovery, and vitamin B1, to facilitate the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Many energy drinks also contain magnesium, potassium, other vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants.

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