Performance Oriented Hydration Guidelines for Athletes

Do you want to get the taste of every shade of pain? I’ve got a perfect recipe for you – get yourself dehydrated. All you need is to lose just 1%-2% worth of your body’s weight through the fluid loss. Here is how you do it: wake up early in the morning to get that 90 minutes bike ride done, before work or school. Have nothing besides a cup or two of coffee and jump straight on the trainer. I guarantee that your heart rate won’t go higher than zone 3-4, no matter how hard you push yourself. RPE of 3-4 will feel like 7-8, making every second of your workout count as you courageously suffer through it. Besides that, you might experience some of the following symptoms, but they most likely have nothing to do with you being dehydrated. Push harder!

  • Headache (wether changes)
  • Fatigue (don’t be lazy!)
  • Dizziness (thats ok, just don’t close your eyes)
  • Increased thirst (resist! less water = higher RPE)
  • Tachycardia (you won’t even feel it)
  • Weak pulse (don’t worry about that)
  • Chills/cold hands (put on an extra jacket)
  • Organ failure (people live even with one kidney)
  • Shrunken brain (less weight to carry)

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke – those are the things that will add more flavor to your experience of riding the paintrain. There are few tips on how to access those add on features and amplify your suffering:

  • Do some interval training outside, including extreme spikes in intensity or volume
  • Try exercising when sick. Disease and fewer is not an excuse to skip a workout
  • Put on as many clothes as you have. Let’s see how many cycling jerseys you’ve got in your closet
  • Neglect all the clues and heat-related illness signals your body sends you

Few more workouts like this and you begin questioning your abilities as an athlete and your existence on this planet overall. A little shit-talking voice in your head gets louder and louder, yelling at you to stop this suffer fest and quit the sport all together. Perfect! There are many other ways to get on the paintrain with a first-class seat, but I will not discuss all of them just yet. If it’s something that you’re specifically looking for, let me know and I will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to obtain the ticket to the suffer-land for free.

Let’s get serious

Performance Hydration

Let’s talk first about why exactly is hydration so important?

I bet you heard a million times that making sure you are well hydrated with clean water is essential to your well-being. I’ll just refresh a few things in your memory in regards to why you need to drink water.

About 40 liters of water contains a 150 pounds human body. Every day you loose 2-3 liters of fluids. Your body doesn’t produce water and heavily rely on external sources. Without proper amount of water, your body fails to:

  • Transport fuel to your working muscles
  • Eliminate the byproducts of your trainings from your cells
  • Keeping you alive and not let you dies from overheating by cooling itself down.
  • Digest the foods you eat and convert them into the fuel for your next training sessions.
  • Keep your brain functioning, making you a bit smarter than your dog. Concentration is compromised.
  • Maintain the blood volume. The sweat that you loose during exercise comes out of your blood plasma. Loose too much sweat -> blood volume goes down -> performance decreases.

The list goes on and on, but the main point here is that WATER IS LIFE.


When endurance athlete “hits the wall” or getting “bonked”, running out of energy, he can grab a gel or coke and rapidly put that necessary calories into the engine. Up to a certain point dehydration is manageable and there no performance decline. However, if the athlete is getting dehydrated, there is no fast way to restore hydration status. When is too late? Over 2% of body’s mass lost through the fluids links to a low performance. Your main task as an athlete is to stay above 2% or 3% off for fluids lost during exercise. Its easy to miss the point of not coming back and once you’re in the hole of dehydration, you’re not coming out of it in a course of the event. Game is over! Or it for the least your performance is highly compromised.

A symptom of dehydration is often expressed as hunger. That sound weird, but it’s true. When people reach for carbohydrate rich foods, because they’re hungry in the pm its often the fact that they simply dehydrated. By retaining hydration status during the day, it get easier to manage portion control and quality of food consumed.


On the flip side is over-hydration problem – hyponatremia. A lot of athletes are over-hydrating lowering the body sodium levels to dangerously low levels. Your blood becomes thicker and saltier and you feel thirsty. If you drink a lot of water or a lot of low-sodium fluids you actually diluting your blood down. You hold about 32 oz (950 mL) of fluids in your stomach. Depending on your body size and exercise intensity it empties at a rate about 30-42 oz (890-1242 mL) per hour. If you drink too much, too fast, your stomach gets overfilled, having no choice, but make you vomit to remove the excess. Overdrinking can cause nausea.


You noticed in the past that your sweat leaves white marks on your clothing. Sometimes less, sometimes more. With sweat you never loose just the water, but also electrolytes. Without those positively and negatively charged ions you won’t be able to contract your muscles properly, making your running form seem more like a butt injured bear running away from the hunter. Potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium are the micronutrients that in proper combination allow your body to remain in homeostasis by maintaining the fluid balance. Sodium is predominant electrolyte so you mainly loose this important nutrient with your sweat.

Five main electrolytes inside your body

If you don’t replace the fluids and electrolytes lost, it will essentially pull a cascade of negative events that will make you a dehydrated bitch. Luckily for you, mother nature provided your body with reliable fluid level management feature – a thirst. When too much water leaves your cells – they shrink and your brain gets notified immediately. If you feel thirsty, you’re on your way to a suffer-land, sponsored by dehydration. Listen to your body and drink enough to satisfy thirst, not more or less.

Better Hydration = Better Performance

You may not feel thirsty during exercise, but you absolutely need to hydrate while you exercise. Plain water is the best! There are three kinds you are safe to go with:

  • Purified water. This water is free of contaminants and produced by deionization, distillation, reverse osmosis and carbon filtration.
  • Spring water. Spring water is the “natural” version of purified water. may have been disinfected, but most impurities and contaminants remain. In terms of quality, spring water is much closer to tap water than purified water.
  • Alkaline water. It’s less acidic than tap water, however there is little evidence that its healthier than regular tap water.

“Taste and temperature have no perceptible effect on fluid absorption”

Karel, L

Sports drinks

Hypertonics. They are the high-calorie sports drinks or simply soda. Drinking these is not optimal way to hydrate as your body has to move water out of the bloodstream into the gut to absorb the calories within the drink.

Isotonics or Hypotonics. This types of drinks are formulated to a concentration that is similar to your blood, which makes them a good hydration tools.

Coffee & Tea

Coffee is considered as probably harmless and possibly healthy. Just keep in mind that it’s a central nervous system stimulant so try not to over drink it.Commonly accepted safe dose of it is no more than 32 oz (946 ml) a day.

Tea also has caffeine in it, but way less than coffee. It is often praised for its health benefits and can help to fight free radicals, reduce the risk of heart related disease and even cancer. Herbal teas increase immunity, support weight loss, control appetite, promote better sleep and lower stress levels. It’s not a magic bullet, but if you get to pick between tea and coffee, I would go with the first one.

Juice, Energy drinks and Alcohol

Liquid produce is not healthier than whole, solid produce. Real juice, even with no added sugars is a very easy way to over-consume the calories, compared with eating whole foods. However it may come in handy after the intense workout, assisting in rehydration and delivering vitamins with minerals. To make it even a better post-workout option, add a tea spoon of pink Himalayan salt to make it more similar to rehydration sports drinks.

Energy drinks is a no-no! 5-hour Energy, NOS, Monster Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar etc. is a poison straight from a can. Sugar, enormous amount of calories and caffeine along with other stimulants will put you at risk of cardiac arrest. Save your heart and opt from such drinks, especially during the exercise.

There are no benefits to alcohol consumptionSorry. The use of alcohol even in small amounts can negatively affect your hydration status, sleep, recovery, motivation and overall performance.Not to mention, it causes weight gain and weakens your immune system. If you are an athlete, especially during a competition season, do yourself a favor – stay away from alcohol.

Know your Sweat Rate

Everyone looses fluids differently, therefore to better understand how much you are sweating it’s important to calculate your sweat rate. Right before your next big workout, jump on scales and record your weight. When finished, re-weight yourself and calculate your sweat rate using the example of how to estimate the sweat rate for 150 lbs athlete after a 2 hour 30 minutes bike ride:

  • Pre-exercise weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
  • Post-exercise weight: 148.5 lbs (67.3 kg)
  • Weight (fluids) loss: 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) or 24.7 oz (700 mL)
  • Water consumed during exercise: 3 liters (100 oz)
  • Total Sweat Loss: 24.7 oz + 100 oz = 124.7 oz (3688 mL)
  • SWEAT RATE: 124.7 oz / 2.5 hours = 50 oz/hour (1480 mL/hour)


HEALTHY PEE CHART [Digital image]. (2017, January 30). Retrieved February 3, 2019, from