Hydration Tips for Triathletes You Can’t Afford to Miss

If you think hydration hoopla is overrated and it just means drinking a sufficient amount of water to quench your thirst and keep your body temperature under control, then we are sorry to burst your bubble. Being dehydrated by a mere 2% of your body weight can mean an increased level of fatigue, lower mental and physical performance, and a higher risk of muscle cramps and heat stress. And, we know this is enough to throw you out of the triathlon race even before you start.

But, the good news is that you can easily manage the hydration needs of your body and keep things under control with some hydration tips. Wondering how?

Here’s a quick glimpse of all that we have in store for you to keep yourself hydrated for your next triathlon race:

  • Indicators of your body’s hydration level
  • Essential fluids to maintain water balance
  • Managing your hydration requirement pre, during and post-triathlon
  • Important triathlon hydration tips

Indicators of the hydration level of your body


Source: https://webber-nutrition.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/hydration-planning.jpg

It is important to understand the hydration status of your body to balance the water level requirement. To do so:

Check the urine concentration, which can be analyzed by examining the urine color and volume of the urine. The healthy hydration level will be indicated with pale yellow or straw-colored urine. However, if your urine is dark yellow and has low volume, chances are you’re dehydrated. Remember, certain vitamin supplements tend to change the color of the urine too, so make sure to rule out this possibility before you conclude your hydration status. Additionally, you can calculate the sweat rate per hour, which, on average, should be 32 to 48 ounces per hour and sodium losses per hour should ideally range from 500 to 1,500 mg.

Essential fluids to maintain water balance


It is easy to maintain normal fluid balance in the body if you train at moderate intensity for less than an hour. However, for triathletes, it works differently as they have long practice sessions.

It requires the following components to ensure the right fluid balance in the body:

  • To retain fluid and limit urine output, an adequate amount of electrolytes comprising sodium and potassium is essential. An ideal sports drink must have 0.5-0.7grams/liter of sodium and 0.8-2grams/liter of potassium.
  • Carbohydrates are essential to replace depleted muscle glycogen. So, a drink comprising 6-8% carbohydrate is required to promote fast absorption. Additionally, ensure ingesting 30-60grams/hour of carbohydrates in the form of sports drinks or snacks to maintain muscle fuel.

Managing your hydration requirement pre, during and post-triathlon


Pre-Event Hydration – Ideally, you must have 10 to 20 ounces of water before training for triathlon events. The intake should be adequate and not excessive and can be comprised of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.

Hydration During The Event – During your race, you must consume 12 to 24 ounces of water per hour plus additional liquid calories, if the event lasts long. It is also recommended to have electrolytes – 0 to 800 mg/hour of sodium.

Post-Race Hydration – Finish your triathlon event by consuming 16 to 20 ounces of water per pound lost. No supplement is required to maintain your electrolyte balance. You can go for food with some water content or coconut water.

Important triathlon hydration tips

  • A reduction in body weight of at least 2-3% of body mass at the end of vigorous exercise represents a loss of body water that needs to be replaced.
  • Drink 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound of weight that you’ve lost during exercise (450-675mL/lb). Keep track of your weight before and after the workout to understand the approximate weight you usually lose.
  • In cool conditions, 500ml (16oz) of fluid, in warmer conditions 750ml (26oz) and for hot or humid conditions, 1 liter of water is required.
  • Too much water can lower the concentration of sodium in the body, causing hyponatremia (overhydration). So, ensure the intake of salt before and during long-course triathlon races to avoid hyponatremia.
  • Carbohydrates, electrolytes, and proteins are equally essential to manage hydration levels in the body.
  • Beverages to keep you well-hydrated include water (plain or flavored), milk, milkshakes, juices, smoothies, and sports/energy drinks.
  • Opt for a cool beverage as opposed to warm/hot beverages for better absorption

Hydration management is an important part of training and racing that shouldn’t be neglected. Additionally, since every athlete has a unique requirement in terms of nutrition and water intake, it makes sense to seek help from sports nutritionists to determine the right nutrition plan for you.

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