By Tasija Karosas, Swimming World College Intern

Other than goals and training, food seems a top priority in a swimmer’s mind. Before finishing breakfast you may already be thinking, “What’s for lunch?” or “I can’t wait for my mid-day snack in an hour.” I love talking about food, but I often leave one major item out: FLUIDS. Hydration is an essential component to training and more importantly, life. Most athletes understand the importance of hydration, but few know how to utilize it properly.

In this article I hope to explain when and how much fluid you should be drinking throughout the day and during practice…

1. Water

Photo Courtesy: Lora Rajah via Flickr

Photo Courtesy: Lora Rajah via Flickr

While most athletes know that water is essential to maintain life and training capacity, you may not know when or how much you should be drinking. I would say most people drink when they feel thirsty. Thirst is your body’s natural response to dehydration. Therefore, it is important to drink water BEFORE you feel thirsty. This will help maintain fluid balance in your body. So, how do you know when the right time is to hydrate?

The best answer is you should be drinking water constantly throughout the day. Before you go to bed at night you should have drank at least ½ your body weight (an ounce for each pound), plus an additional 32 ounces for every hour of training. For example: if you weigh 150 pounds (150oz.) and train for two hours a day (2x32oz.), you should be drinking 139 ounces of fluid per day. To sum it up, that is approximately four and a half 32 ounce Gatorade bottles.

Although constantly drinking water throughout the day is important, there are four times a day where you should focus on optimal hydration: before you wake up, pre-practice, during practice, and post practice. After you wake up in the morning, whether you have morning practice or not, drink at least eight ounces of water.

Prior to exercise (approximately 30 minutes before), you should be drinking 10 ounces of water. During exercise you should be drinking 4-8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. After practice, drink 16 ounces for every pound lost during exercise. This is typically a full 32-ounce bottle.

2. Gatorade/Sports Drink

gatorade

Photo Courtesy: Flickr

While working out and drinking a lot of water, your body will also need electrolytes. Gatorade is a great source of these electrolytes. While sports drinks increase hydration, they also help maintain fluid balance. Sports drinks are not essential to be drinking throughout the day, but they awesome during workout. If you are working out at a high intensity for over an hour and/or you know you are a heavy sweater, it is important to add or substitute these sports drinks for water.

The best time to drink Gatorade is prior to working out and during, so before workout drink eight to twenty ounces of Gatorade (substitution for water). Sports drinks are also great to have in between workout, so after a heavy lift or dry land session before a swim practice, drink 8 ounces of Gatorade, and supplement with a small snack.

3. Coconut Water

coconut water

Photo Courtesy: Flickr

For those of you who do not prefer sports drinks there is another alternative: coconut water. Coconut water is not essential for athletes but it is a great, all-natural substitute for Gatorade, plus it has a higher sodium and potassium concentration than Gatorade. If you are substituting coconut water for Gatorade you should consume about the same amount pre, during, and post practice. Certain brands of coconut waters have added protein, which makes them GREAT for recovery. If you are sick of chocolate milk or do not have enough time to make a recovery smoothie, chocolate coconut water with added protein is another delicious and refreshing recovery drink.

Hydration plays a crucial role in athletic fueling. If you are drinking enough water or sports drinks during the times of optimal hydration, it will be easier for your body to resist muscle fatigue during practice. Remember to drink constantly throughout the day and NEVER forget your water bottle!

Artice from Swimming World Magazine.