Most gymnasts have been told to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” but what does this truly mean?
Why is it so important to hydrate and how much hydrating do you really need to do?
To truly understand the importance of hydration, it can be helpful to know what is going on in your body.
Hydration means providing your body with enough fluids. The human body is made up of anywhere from 60-70% water. Water is essential because every cell, tissue, and organ in your body is not only made up of water but also needs water to work properly. Specifically, water is needed to:
Carry oxygen and nutrients around the body to cells and muscles
Regulate blood pressure
Regulate body temperature
Protect the heart
Prevent you from getting sick, as it flushes out the harmful bacteria and toxins that can accumulate
Help you recover by removing the byproducts of exercise that
Run the gastrointestinal system, making sure you are able to use and get the most out of the food and the nutrients that you eat
Why is it bad to be dehydrated?
Being dehydrated can have major negative impacts on your overall health and wellbeing (see all of those jobs listed above).
Even mild dehydration can dramatically decrease performance and and lead to fatigue, poor concentration and decreased level of strength.
Signs of dehydration include:
Headaches and dizziness
Dry, cool skin
Poor decision making
Lack of recovery
Not peeing a lot
Dark Urine color
How can you keep tabs of your hydration status?
The color of your urine (aka pee) can tell you a lot about whether or not you are dehydrated. The more dehydrated you are, the darker yellow your urine will be.
Use this color chart below to determine hydration status:
The best time to look at the color of your urine is in the morning since you haven’t had anything to drink for around 8 hours. You can also do a quick check before, during, and after practice to see how well you hydrate during your workout.
Hydration and recovery:
Since gymnasts use their bodies to the extreme, they are in a constant state of recovery, which is why it’s important to give your body the proper recipe for recovery. The aspects of recovery that play into a gymnasts overall recovery include fueling with food properly, sleeping well and hydrating!
Hydration plays a key role in your body's recovery from practice by helping remove all of the damaged cells, by-products of exercise, and inflammation from your body, as well as bringing valuable nutrients around your body.
In summer, it's essential to prioritize hydration because of the warmer weather, as you are likely sweating out more fluid, and the early morning practice schedule. Your body has gone all night without fluids, and you're likely waking up dehydrated and want to remedy this before starting your workout in order to be at your best.
How much should you drink?
To stay hydrated for training, most gymnasts will need to drink an additional 8-16 oz of water in the 2 hours leading up to training, 8-16 oz every hour during training, and 16-24 ounces in the hour after training.
How much water is 8 to 16 ounces of water?
16 ounces of water is equal to one regular sized plastic, disposable water bottle or 2 cups of water. So 8 ounces would be half a water bottle or one cup. Usually, reusable water bottles will display how many ounces they hold, so it is good to pay attention to how much water is in your water bottle to keep track of how much hydrating you are doing!
Here is an example of a hydration schedule:
If you follow this hydration schedule everyday, you will be well hydrated!
Some hydration reminders for summer training:
Drink a big glass of water in the morning (or even an electrolyte drink can help if you have morning workout)
Take a sip of your drink every 10-15 minutes at practice
Bring your bottle with you to your event, or incorporate a drink into a circuit
Eat a salty snack or drink a sports drink after 2 hours of practice
Hydration requires more than just water
Staying hydrated not only means drinking enough fluid daily, but it also involves maintaining fluid balance throughout the body's different parts. This process requires both energy from carbohydrates (aka sugar) and electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose essential electrolytes that need to be replaced. Those that play a role in hydration are mainly sodium, potassium, and chloride. Electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade, Liquid IV, Nuun, or others can be used before an early morning practice (when the time to rehydrate is limited) or practices lasting more than 2 hours where you may or may not get a snack or meal break.
Pro tip: When picking a sports drink, ensure it contains the electrolytes lost when we sweat. If it does not have electrolytes, rehydration will be difficult.
Can you drink too much water?
Yes, you can! Although it is more common to be dehydrated than over-hydrated it can still happen.
What happens if you are over-hydrated?
As you may notice when you drink more, you have to use the bathroom more. The issue for most people does not usually have to do with too much water, but with not replacing the electrolytes along with it. This is known as Hyponatremia. This is a dangerous consequence of drinking too much water, which occurs when there is not enough sodium in the blood to help the water flow where it needs to go into the body. Instead of absorbing it, your body will just eliminate it. This can also happen if you find yourself taking very few drink breaks but then chugging when you do (as opposed to taking regular smaller sips).
This can cause headache, thirst, dizziness, fatigue, mental confusion, and nausea (not to mention trying to do gymnastics with water slushing around your stomach). To prevent this from happening, make sure to take frequent small sips and replace electrolytes lost from sweat either through a sports drink or through salty food or snacks.
So, If you want to reach your goals this summer and throughout the year you will need to make hydration a priority and have a strategy to consume the amount of fluids recommended daily!
Looking for more help and support with your fueling plan this summer? I am currently accepting a limited number of gymnasts into my Springboard and Elite Coaching Programs. Interested, get started by filling out this short application today.