Living and being a Nordic athlete in Colorado has conditioned most of us to tote around the ubiquitous water bottle, switching up our look with a hydration belt in winter. We get it: Drink up at altitude.
But do you have a hydration strategy, or is it just “grab a bottle and go”?
Dehydration can sneak up on us in summer, even seasoned athletes who may be pretty fit and a little cavalier. And double bummer: It leads not just to physical fatigue, but mental fatigue as well. So a little thought can go a long way in optimizing your workout and preventing burnout.
For starters, you’ll want to weigh yourself before and after a long run or ride. According to a study in the Journal of Sport Science, you want no more than a 2% decrease in body weight after a workout. (If you weigh more after a run or ride, you might be over-swigging—dial it back.)
But about how much? One rule of thumb is drinking a liter of water for every 1,000 calories you burn daily, so if you typically burn 2,500 a day, that’s 2.5 L just to maintain healthy hydration. During runs, the general rule is four to six ounces every 20 minutes. For cycling, it’s six to eight ounces for every 20 minutes on the bike.
Next question: fancy stuff, or just H2O? If your workout is less than an hour, plain water is fine. Anything longer or super intense requires you to think about replenishing two things: electrolytes and carbs.
For workouts past the hour mark, drinks containing sugar or maltodextrin and sodium appear to speed recovery. Researchers at Loughborough University found that when runners drank a sports drink (5.5g carbohydrate/100ml), they improved their running time by 3.9 minutes over 42km compared with drinking water.
To prevent bonk and maintain energy, you’ll need carbs to restore glycogen levels, so that’s your energy drink varieties. Most of these contain electrolytes too, so check your label so you don’t double dip.
If you’re an energy bar kind of athlete and don’t mind chewing to stay fueled, you’ll need to think about grabbing an electrolyte-only drink after about 3 hours of exercise.
It’s easy to stay hydrated when you’ve got a hassle-free hydration system. Nordic gear like the Madshus drink belt/bottle works well for runs and hikes ($30, Boulder Nordic Sports) or for a bottle-free option, check out the Salomon Agile 250, which holds a .74 L soft flask with room for keys or a bar ($50, Salomon).