With summer approaching and hopefully some much needed drier and warmer weather on the way I thought it might be good time to talk about hydration.
Effective hydration is key to avoiding muscle cramps as electrolytes aid our nervous system in transmitting the signals to our muscles for when we want to turn them on and off. It also has a major impact on our cognitive process, if you've ever had a hangover from alcohol you'll know that your joints can ache -muscle dehydration causing shortened muscles to pull on our joints, and also a raging headache - a likely outcome of our brains temporarily shrinking!!!
Too little water during sport and our body loses these salts, too much water and we risk flushing the electrolytes out. Trial and error with salt tablets or salty foods on hot days gives us an idea what each individual needs and simple test like pinching of the skin and observing the colour, smell of our urine and frequency we need to take pee breaks can all be simple but effective markers for whether we are replacing lost fluids. As can a craving for salty foods.
Personally, on very long runs, if I don't feel like I need to pee every 45 minutes I increase my water intake, and I always have a 500ml bottle of electrolyte mix on the go to alternate with my pure water.
Trial and error will help you balance your own fluid intake and remember to keep and eye on the weather. Cold weather or waterproof clothing can cause us to sweat just as much as hot weather when exerting ourselves! Many an experienced runner has fallen foul of hydration.
Also worth noting from a performance perspective is that as we dehydrate our body fluids, including blood can become thicker, making it harder for the heart to pump and slowing the flow of oxygen to our muscles. Next time you hear someone boasting about how little water they drink during sport you might want to mention that.
If you're having trouble managing your hydration you should consult your doctor as it can be an early indicator in a number of serious health issues.
So as a major factor in the effective performance of athletes we know a lot about how to stay hydrated but too much information can be overwhelming. Here's a short video on the topic with some great info from TED-Ed: