Hydration Tips For Triathletes

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  • Published Sep 7, 2011
  • Updated Sep 12, 2011 at 9:34 PM UTC
Photo: Nils Nilsen

What should I drink during exercise?

If you train at a moderate intensity for less than an hour, water is sufficient to maintain normal fluid balance. However, if you’re exercising vigorously, or for longer than an hour, you will benefit from a sports drink. Why? Sports drinks are formulated to provide three important components:

• Fluid to maintain body water balance
• Electrolytes (particularly sodium and potassium) that help the body retain fluid and limit urine output. A good sports drink for exercise lasting longer than two hours should have about 0.5-0.7grams/liter of sodium and 0.8-2grams/liter of potassium.
• Carbohydrates to provide glucose to both the muscles and brain for optimal functioning. Sports drinks are formulated with 6-8 percent carbohydrate to promote fast absorption during activity. During prolonged exercise ingest about 30-60grams/hour of carbohydrates to maintain muscle fuel. This can be in the form of sports drink or snacks.

Every athlete is unique in what his/her ideal rate of fluid intake would be during an endurance event or sport activity. It can depend on many factors such as your sweat rate, gender, size/weight, speed, temperature, metabolism, muscle mass, etc. Fluid recommendations during exercise typically range from 14-27 ounces/hour (0.4 to 0.8 liters/hour), with the lower end of the spectrum applying to smaller and/or slower individuals, and the higher end of the spectrum applying to larger and/or faster individuals. Monitor your thirst and urine output (and weight if possible) to help you adjust the rate of hydration. Ask a sports nutritionist to help you determine exactly how much fluid is right for you.

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