Hydration Before, During & After Competition


Many athletes love training their butts off and leaving everything on the line come competition day. However, there seems to be few athletes that are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to hydration! I believe this issue can be attributed to a lack of understanding. External and internal factors – temperature, humidity, altitude and individual physiology. All these factors can alter how much water you need during competition/exercise.

It is alarming to note that a drop in just 1.5% water levels can result in a 10-15% drop in maximal strength! This is because the body uses water to transport oxygen and nutrients to your cells and waste products away from them.

How to hydrate optimally…

Before Competition:

Ideally you should be taking in fluids throughout the day, the goal being to consume .5-1 ounce/lb per day. Use the below calculation to determine your water intake range;

  • Low end of range = Bodyweight (lbs.) x 0.5 = (ounces of fluid/day)

  • High end range = Bodyweight (lbs.) x 1 = (ounces of fluid/day)

  • Example; a 200 pound individual would need to take in between 100 – 200 ounces of water per day.

  • To ensure that you are hydrated heading into exercise or competition, consume between 12-16 ounces of water 30 minutes ahead of time.

During Competition:

Sweating rates can vary from less than 0.5 to more than 2.5 liters per hour. This depends upon exercise intensity, fitness level and heat acclimation state. Not to mention, the human body is 40-70% water depending on gender and how much fat the athlete is carrying. The more lean and muscular the athlete is, the higher percentage of total body water they contain (more than half being in the blood & muscle tissue).

As your fitness and performance levels rise, your body becomes smarter at cooling itself. The following will occur in an attempt to keep core temperature stable;

  • Sweating will begin sooner. The body starts ramping up the cooling process more quickly to stay ahead of the rise in core temp.

  • Volume of sweat will increase, your body becomes more efficient at creating sweat, increasing the odds of keeping core temperature down.

  • Fewer electrolytes are lost, your body changes the composition of sweat so that more electrolytes are retained!

  • Even though our bodies become more efficient at cooling when skill level increases, it is still important to hydrate throughout competition. Dehydration decreases blood flow to the muscles, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients being brought to the muscles and increasing the amount of waste products that stay within the muscles! Also, blood volume drops when dehydrated, causing the heart to work harder! These are all bad things when trying to perform optimally.

To ensure proper hydration, make sure to take in at least 16 ounces of water every 30 minutes. Try a post workout drink that promotes hydration, nutrient balance, protein anabolism, and pH balance. These are all factors necessary to maintain focus and sustained energy levels, especially for intense training, but can also benefit those participating in moderate exercise.

After Competition:

During intense competition, athletes lose electrolytes, fluids, glucose and cortisol (stress) levels rise. To recover, it is important to consume a sports drink that accomplishes the following;

  • Stimulates the drive to drink.

  • Accelerates fluid absorption.

  • Quickly restores hydration levels.

  • Supplies protein and glucose to lower cortisol and put the body in an anabolic state.

Use the calculations below to figure out what your body needs post-competition;

  • For 1 Hour of Training:

    • 30 grams of carbohydrates + 15 grams of protein + 20 ounces of water

  • For 2 Hours of Training:

    • 30 grams of carbohydrates + 15 grams of protein + 20 ounces of water – in first hour after exercise

    • 30 grams of carbohydrates + 15 grams of protein + 20 ounces of water – in second hour after exercise

These recommendations will put you ahead of 90% of the competition! If you’re interested in having a nationally accredited strength and conditioning coach customize a training and nutrition program around your specific sport needs, stop by The Gym of Avon today for a consultation.