Sport nutrition and hydration

Nutrición deportiva e hidratación

Sport nutrition and hydration

Today we talk about sport nutrition and hydration. When we engage in physical activity, our body loses water through breathing and, above all, through sweating. Therefore, if we do not adequately replenish fluids, we run the risk of becoming dehydrated. And dehydration, in addition to reducing performance, can have negative consequences for our health.

Why do we sweat?

During physical activity, our body temperature rises between 2°C and 4°C depending on the intensity and environmental conditions. And our body’s way of regulating this temperature increase is through sweating. When we sweat, a liquid layer forms on our skin which, as it evaporates, lowers the temperature; we sweat to cool down. With good sports nutrition and hydration rules, we can better regulate our perspiration.

The greater the intensity and duration, the more we will perspire. The same will happen if it is hotter or if the environment is more humid. But it is not only water that we eliminate through sweat, we also lose salts and electrolytes – sodium and potassium – which are important to replenish, as well as water.

Hydration as part of nutrition

When we talk about sports nutrition and hydration, we quickly think of carbohydrates and calories. But unfortunately, hydration is often overlooked, even though it can be just as important, if not more so, than proper energy replenishment.

Anna Griffols, an expert in sports nutrition, tells us that “it is very common for sportsmen and women who do long endurance events – lasting 4 hours or more – to ingest a sufficient amount of liquid. But sometimes they do not include sodium or include a poor amount of it. This, in addition to negatively influencing their performance, can cause serious health problems during the event or at the end of the event. A clear example of this is hyponatremia.

But what is hyponatraemia? This term refers to an excessive drop in the level of sodium in the blood with consequences for the body. Sometimes they are mild, such as nausea or dizziness, but they can be much more serious, sometimes leading to coma.

That’s why it is essential to plan your hydration properly when we draw up our nutrition plan for training or competition.

How much sodium do we need?

The amount of sodium we need to provide as part of our nutritional strategy varies according to sweat rate and external conditions. In general terms, the nutritionist recommends that in winter we consume 450 mg of sodium per hour and in summer or extreme conditions of altitude or humidity up to 1150 mg per hour.

Anna explains that “sometimes drinks are not enough to replenish the lost sodium and then salt tablets or salty foods (such as snacks, salted potatoes or rice for example) are a good option. Especially in longer and more demanding events.

Tips on sports nutrition and hydration

What about water?

When it comes to sports nutrition and hydration, fluid intake, whether in the form of water, isotonic drinks or foods such as fruit and soups, is essential during exercise. In addition to preventing dehydration, adequate fluid intake helps to maintain performance, prevent cramps, stomach upsets and a better distribution of nutrients and oxygen to our muscles.

The amount needed also depends on temperature, humidity and level of exertion, among other factors. But as a general rule we should consume between 500 ml and 1 lt of fluid per hour during exercise.

Sport nutrition and hydration: salts and isotonic drinks

The consumption of salt tablets, whether in capsule, dissolved or effervescent form, serves to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweat. For this reason, their use is essential during long, intense training sessions and competitions. Griffols advises to use “at least one tablet per hour. If we notice that our fingers are swelling, it may be due to over-consumption and in this case, it is advisable to space them out”. He explains that salts, as well as replenishing electrolytes, help the body to absorb water better, and by being more hydrated, carbohydrates are also better absorbed.

When using isotonic drinks, we should favour those containing sugar. They are a very good nutritional alternative, as they help to hydrate and prevent fatigue with their supply of minerals, liquids and glucose.

Tips for proper hydration

  • Use water-absorbing drinks only if necessary. Special attention in training or competitions of more than one hour, of more than moderate intensity or in hot and humid environmental conditions..
  • Hydrate before, during and after physical activity..
  • Avoid feeling thirsty. By the time we feel thirsty we have already lost more than 1% of our body water and therefore our athletic performance has already been affected.
  • For moderate and gentle activities lasting less than one hour, half a litre of water is sufficient.
  • Get into the habit of taking small sips constantly rather than large amounts spaced out. It will be easier to avoid stomach upsets and to maintain constant hydration.
  • Try to drink fluids at less physically demanding times. When your heart rate is very high or your breathing rate increases a lot, it is better for your body to concentrate on that demand and not add tasks such as assimilating fluids or food.
  • Try to drink fluids at less physically demanding times. When your heart rate is very high or your breathing rate increases a lot, it is better for your body to concentrate on that demand and not add tasks such as assimilating fluids or food.

Don’t forget that nutrition is trained just like every aspect of sport. And hydration, as part of the nutritional strategy, is also learned and perfected with practice.

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