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For athletes (amateur or professional), proper hydration means more than just taking a sip once in a while during your workout. Proper hydration requires planning, as the amounts and moments the water is ingested are rather critical, especially during endurance training and when effort is required for an extended period.
Here is a short guide that will help you better understand why hydration is so important in situations requiring physical exertion. As a bonus, I share my tricks to enhance the taste of your water. No more dull and boring water!

Water makes up two thirds of our bodies. But what is all this water for?
First, water is essential for the circulation of many elements, such as blood, which carries glucose, proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals to the various muscles and organs in our body. To draw a parallel with sports, during muscular effort, CO2 is produced by your muscles and released in the blood. The blood then carries the CO2 to the lungs, which expel it into the atmosphere.

Secondly, water acts as a heat pump; this function is especially important during physical activity, since a significant amount of heat is produced. Water captures heat and carries it to the skin's surface, creating perspiration. The more intense the effort, the more you sweat to restore your body’s temperature!

During a workout, our bodies lose more water due to our increased respiratory rate and excessive sweating. Water loss can reach one to two litres or more per hour depending on the temperature and intensity of the physical effort.
Here’s a trick to know how much water you lost during a workout: Weigh yourself before and after the physical activity, ideally without clothes and on the same scale. If your weight after the workout is lower than your initial weight, it is a sign that you are dehydrated. Each kilogram of weight lost is equivalent to one litre of water. Don’t delay rehydration. It is recommended to drink up to 1.5 litres of liquid for each kilogram lost.
Don’t wait until you are thirsty before drinking, as the thirst reflex is triggered when the body is already dehydrated. Thirst is not a good indicator of your body’s need for water. Don’t let it fool you!
All athletes benefit from good hydration. As a matter of fact, being dehydrated reduces your ability to exert intense physical effort and leads to premature fatigue, which can affect performance.

During a physical activity, there are three critical moments that affect your level of hydration, namely before, during and after the effort. And planning is key.
✔  Before the workout: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the 24 hours prior to the physical activity. Also, aim for between 400 and 600 millilitres within two to three hours prior to the exercise.
✔  During the workout: Take small sips (the body tolerates water better if it comes in small amounts, between 150 and 350 millilitres of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes. If the activity does not last more than one hour, water will suffice to hydrate your body. However, if physical effort is required for more than one hour, your body will need carbohydrates and mineral salts. Choose a drink that contains between 40 and 80 grams of carbohydrates/L and between 500 and 700 milligrams of sodium/L.
✔  After the workout: To achieve optimal rehydration, you must replace 150% of fluids lost. Hence, as mentioned above, it is recommended to drink 1.5 litres of fluids per kilogram of weight lost.
''Don’t wait until you are thirsty before drinking,
as the thirst reflex is triggered when the body is already dehydrated.''

For some, drinking water is boring. But when you are an athlete, it is crucial to drink a lot to avoid dehydration. And what if there were ways to make drinking water more enjoyable? Would you drink more?
Here are some tasty fruit, veggie and herb combinations to help you enjoy water:
✔  Cucumber slices and grapefruit wedges
✔  Peach wedges and fresh basil
✔  Orange wedges and strawberry pieces
✔  Lemon or lime and mint
✔  Pear wedges and cinnamon stick
✔  Pineapple pieces and fresh ginger
✔  Cucumber and lemongrass
Combinations are endless. Let go your imagination! 😉
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