Something that I have had trouble with in the past has been staying hydrated when my training load has been heavy. Sometimes it can literally feel like if you’re not training, you’re showering, sleeping or trying to fit enough food in your stomach to fuel your next session, and amidst all of this is can be surprisingly easy to neglect to drink enough. Couple this with a failure to replenish the electrolytes that allow your body to actually retain the water that you drink and fairly soon you’re dealing with dry skin and eyes, muscle cramps, headaches and reduced performance.
My training load today was quite heavy, but I managed to avoid these side-effects of dehydration by:
1: Trusting my body. This has been my mantra over the last six weeks or so, and it has helped in many areas. In this instance, it has meant listening to my body’s thirst and taking the time to drink immediately. It’s too easy to overlook this simple signal – I’ll have a drink as soon as I finish training/get home/have a shower/cook my food – before you know it, you’ve been dehydrated for too long and you lose the feeling of thirst.
2: Salting my food. There are a lot of public health guidelines that are great for the general population but simply do not apply in the same way to athletes. Reducing sodium intake, to a certain extent, is one of them. Your body loses salt and electrolytes along with water when you sweat. Eating more salt helps to replace some of what has been lost, helps your body to retain the water that you do drink, and prevents muscle cramps.
3: Reducing my green tea consumption. I absolutely love tea, and green tea has a plethora of health benefits, so it’s a treat that is really good for you. However, it is also a diuretic, so not so helpful when you’re already dehydrated. Drinking less tea than I normally would means more room for water and better retention of it.
In times of mild dehydration, I have used coconut water and sports drinks in the past, and with more severe dehydration I’ve used Hydralite and other similar formulae. But I like to save these for times of acute dehydration – such as during tournaments and training camps or after weight cuts – and make a habit of drinking plain water as part of my normal routine.