Keep Hydrated Before, During and After Your Swim Workout
Proper hydration is helpful for achieving the best performance in elite athletes. Adequate fluid intake is also helpful for recreational exercisers to exercise at their best. There have been recommendations about how much water or sports drinks are needed. Over the years athletes were advised to drink much more water than we now know is necessary. The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.
We have seen athletes who overhydrate get water intoxication, which is the result of this “drink, drink, drink” mantra, and now recommendations are going the other way to drink less. For many exercisers, water intoxication is a very real and serious complication from drinking too much water. The numbers of triathlon and marathon participants, who develop symptoms of water intoxication, continue to grow as more novice exercisers enter these events.
So what is the right amount of fluid to drink? Well, that depends, and in fact, may not be that important to try to figure out.
The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to replace lost fluids. For an elite athlete, a loss of two percent of body weight in fluid has been linked to a drop in blood volume. This makes the heart work harder in order to move blood through the bloodstream. For elite athletes, this decrease can result in a slight decrease in performance.
Dehydration in athletes may also lead to fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination and muscle cramping. The American College of Sports Medicine provides guidelines for athletes regarding proper hydration and fluid replacement.
• If you feel that you need some sort of guideline to determine how much you should be drinking, use the following as a starting point.
• Drink no more than one cup of water every 20 minutes. You can also weigh yourself before and after you exercise to get a sense of how much fluid you typically lose. One pound is equivalent to approximately 24 ounces of fluid.
• There are two big reasons to drink fluids: to stay hydrated and to provide the body with fuel.
During Your Workout
Regardless of age or length of workout, all swimmers need fluids during practice to stay hydrated. This can be accomplished with a couple of sips from the water bottle every 15 to 20 minutes. As swimmers progress, workouts get longer and tougher. It’s well established that exercise beyond 90 minutes benefits from a supplemental fuel source. The sports drink can provide it. But we still have hydration to think about. Drinks that are too strong or concentrated can provide the fuel, but also inhibit fluid absorption and often lead to cramping.
Research tells us that drinks that are six to eight percent carbohydrate by weight provide the perfect balance. Carbohydrates provide a fuel source during long exercise, but not so much that they will inhibit fluid absorption. A couple of sips every 15 to 20 minutes will keep the body fueled, help prevent unnecessary tissue breakdown, and maintain hydration. Gatorade and PowerAde meet the six to eight percent criteria. Most other drinks are too strong to be effective during workout.
After the Workout
Water is an excellent choice to replenish fluids after practice. It’s always wise to drink at least one cup. But after a tough workout, replenishing fuel stores is equally important. Competitive swimmers need a little over 1 gram of carbohydrate for every kilogram they weigh (lbs/2.2) each hour after workout. And they need it within the first hour. A little protein won’t hurt. In fact, a little bit of protein may actually help by supporting tissue repair and rebuilding processes. Too much protein, especially when it comes in place of carbohydrate, may actually be detrimental to the post-workout recovery process. Carnation Instant Breakfast drink is a great FDA-approved drink to replenish the body’s carbohydrates.