Hydrating for Performance

Hydrating for Performance

By Makayla Meixner

Around 60% of your body is made up of water. It’s essential for virtually every function in your body. 

That’s why even mild dehydration can have a huge impact on your performance. Studies suggest losing as little as 1-2% of your body weight in water can lead to: 

  • Reduced speed and strength
  • Reduced agility and reaction time
  • Decreased focus and mental sharpness 
  • Increased risk for injury 
  • Faster time to fatigue

To avoid dehydration, it’s important to drink water throughout the day and replace water and electrolytes lost through sweat. 


What is sweat?

The main purpose of sweat is to help control body temperature — when it evaporates off your skin, it helps cool you down. 

Sweat is made up of both water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. These minerals help regulate muscle function and play an important role in hydration. Of all the different electrolytes, sodium is the main mineral lost in sweat. 

It’s not uncommon for athletes to lose several pounds of sweat during exercise, especially during hot and humid conditions. 


How to stay hydrated. 

Fluid needs are highly individualized. Unfortunately,  it’s not as simple as the “8 cups per day” rule. Age, physical activity, environmental conditions, and whether you are male or female all factor into how much fluid you need per day. 

While fluids needs vary, here are some tips to get you started: 

  • Drink water throughout the day. For athletes, it’s not always enough to “drink to thirst.” Keep a water bottle with you and drink water throughout the day. 
  • Show up to exercise hydrated. In the hour before exercise, drink 8-16 ounces of water. 
  • Hydrate during exercise. Always keep water nearby during exercise. If you’re not sure where to start, aim for 4 ounces (2-3 large gulps) every 15 minutes. Drink a sports drink If you’re exercising in the heat, humidity, or longer than one hour. Since sports drinks contain carbohydrates, they can also help top off your fuel tank with much-needed energy during more intense workouts. 
  • Replace what’s lost during exercise. Aim to drink 16-20 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost during exercise (yes, this means weighing yourself before and after exercise). 
  • User your body as a guide. Your urine color is one of the best indicators of hydration status. Urinating a pale yellow or straw color every 2-3 hours is a good sign that you’re well hydrated.  

A registered dietitian can help you develop an individualized hydration plan by calculating your sweat rate in different training conditions. 


Key Takeaways

Replacing water and electrolytes lost through sweat is key for maintaining health and optimal performance. 

Hydrate throughout the day and drink water in the hour before exercise. During exercise, consider a sports drink to replenish electrolytes. Drink fluids after exercise, and use your urine color as a guide to determine whether you’re properly hydrated. 

Fluid needs are highly individualized — a registered dietitian can help you develop a hydration plan that works for you. 


Makayla Meixner is a performance dietitian and founder of Own It Nutrition. She specializes in fueling strategies for winter athletes and offers individual and group nutrition coaching services.

Email: makayla@ownitnutrition.com 
Phone: (970) 306-6402
Website: www.ownitnutrition.com