Drink your way to a fitter body this year!
We are told on such a regular basis to drink more water – and that drinking more water would be the solution to a variety of ills and will keep us healthy and fit! Whilst that is true – it is something (myself included) that is rarely adhered to especially when we exercise. It is all very well to keep saying drink more water but how much should we be taking on board and do we need any other nutrients to maximise our performance and recovery?
Even minor levels of dehydration can affect your performance whether you are playing a sport or going for a run or doing gym work. One of the simplest and yet most effective ways you can determine if you are adequately hydrated is just by your urine colour:
Admittedly the above colour chart looks like a bad swatch you might get from a DIY shop when choosing a paint color and it is subjective but it has been shown to be a really good way of making sure you have taken the right amount of fluid on board.
Our urine should be the colour of the first box and for that we should drink about 500ml of water about 2-3 hours before we start exercising. Also, it does not seem to matter whether the fluid is just water – it does not have to be sports drink.
We should then drink another 200-300ml about 20 minutes before we start exercising. On average, we should drinking 35ml of fluid for every kg per day.
Given that even small amount of fluid losses can lead to a decline in performance your hydration status has to be maintained for the duration of the exercise. Although this would be affected by the intensity of the exercise and how much you sweat, a good rule of thumb would be to drink 200-300ml every 20 minutes.
After finishing the exercise, it is not just fluids that need to be taken on board. There are three key areas that need to replenished:
- Glycogen or carbohydrate stores in our liver and muscle so that we are ready for the next workout
- Protein synthesis and other cell components as part of the body’s adaptive process to the exercise
- Fluid and electrolyte losses
Glycogen is the body’s fuel reserve and is largely stored in liver and muscle and is needed so that our bodies are ready for the next workout. Glycogen synthesis is naturally at its most efficient within an hour of stopping any exercise. Athletes are encouraged to consume about 1g/kg of body weight of carbohydrate within an hour of finishing their training or exercise.
The following foods give approximately 50g of carbohydrate and so you can easily modify the quantities according to your body weight:
750ml of a sports drink
2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
1 cup thick vegetable soup + large bread roll
1 large cake style muffins, fruit buns or scones
1 baked potato
Fluid and electrolyte replacement
Most sports and athletic council guidelines state that you should aim to drink about 125%-150% of your fluid losses in a time period of about 5 hours after finishing exercising. For most of us, we would not need to be that precise but the only way to really calculate that would be to weigh ourselves before and after exercise. As a rough estimate after a moderately intense workout of an hour, we should consume about 2 litres of fluid over a 5 hour period after stopping. To help the fluid be absorbed more rapidly and to replace the salts that have been lost, you should drink juice or an energy drink that contains electrolytes rather than just plain water. It worth noting that everyday juices would rehydrate just as effectively as marketed “sports” drinks.
Muscle Repair and Building
Eating protein rich foods within an hour of stopping exercise aids muscle protein synthesis and muscle repair. Resistance and endurance athletes alike have been shown to benefit from eating 15-25g of protein within the first hour after exercise.
Foods containing approximately 10g of protein include:
40g skinless cooked chicken
50g of canned tuna
300 ml of milk
200g tub of yoghurt
120g of tofu
200g of baked beans
Most of us make sure we drink water during and after an exercise session but I for one rarely drink enough water before a workout. Even mild levels of dehydration can lead to your performance being affected and so you really can drink your way to a fitter body this year!