No conversation about nutrition and the athlete is complete without discussing water. Yet, water is often overlooked and left out of the conversation. I can see why. Water is not sexy. It does not provide calories. It is not a macronutrient. It does not have taste or color. However, water is the most abundant substance in our bodies and is vital to our existence. We consider it one of the Crucial Nutrients every Athlete needs.
I think water takes a back seat to most nutrition recommendations or considerations because figuring out how much water you actually need is more confusing than deciphering instructions to put together a piece of furniture from a certain home furnishing store. Between recommendations to drink a gallon of water a day and recommendations to drink no water at all hydrating with food instead, what’s an athlete to do?
This blog will offer up three simple guidelines that every athlete can use to ensure they enter a WOD hydrated and are able to give a max effort during any workout. Each guideline provides a simple indicator that you can use to assess your hydration status pre workout. We’ll also give you some quick and easy formulas to calculate your daily fluid needs.
Thirst is the healthy way to assess hydration
Above all other indicators, thirst should be your number one guide of when it’s time to drink. Take a second right now to check in with yourself. Is your mouth a little dry? Are you starting to salivate with all this talk about drinking water? If so, go get some. I’ll wait. If you’re up to your eyeballs in that second liter of water you just finished as you were settling in to read this blog, take a break. It’s okay.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that thirst is not perfect all the time. You may have just eaten a salty meal. You may be on medications that give you dry mouth or actually increase your desire for water. Other medications take away the desire to drink. Being ill can also impact your thirst cues. In general, though, there’s no better assessment tool for when it’s time to drink some water than thirst.
Urine is the ultimate hydration coach
So, I bet none of you have ever thought of your urine as a coach. True, urine is not going to program your WOD for the day or tell you to straighten your back during a deadlift, but urine does provide cues of when you should pour yourself a glass of water or put that glass down. Let me explain.
Cue 1: Urine Color
Do you check the toilet after you are done urinating? You should. Urine color is a great indicator of your hydration status. If your urine is a pale yellow like lemonade, you are well hydrated and ready for any workout. If your urine is a darker shade of yellow like apple juice, you are dehydrated and need some time to self-correct. If you don’t listen to your “coach” and get some fluids in you with time to actually absorb those fluids, that WOD won’t be pretty.
Cue 2: Urine Frequency
When was the last time you visited the loo? If it’s been more than 2 hours, you may be a little dehydrated. In general, urinating every 2-4 hours is normal. Obviously, you’re not expected to wake up throughout the night and go. We also don’t mind if you take a few extra trips to the bathroom if it’s close to bedtime, or double-unders are coming up in the WOD. I feel ya ladies. But a 2-4 hour interval is a great checkpoint from which to assess hydration status.
Nutrition by the numbers
So, now you have three simple cues: thirst, urine color, and urine frequency from which to assess your hydration status and ensure you enter your WOD ready for whatever your coach has programmed for you. But I know some of you are numbers people and you need more specific guidance than that. You want a formula to tell you exactly how much to drink each and every day.
You’re in luck. There are several for you to pick from. The only problem is that none of them match each other or are even close. So, when we are recommending a starting point for most people, we recommend the following:
One-half of your body weight in pounds = The amount in ounces of fluid you should drink in a day
For those of you who measure your weight in kg, you will get similar recommendations using this formula:
Your weight in kg multiplied by 33 = The amount in milliliters of fluid you should drink in a day
Of note, if you have a low body weight below 115 pounds (52.2 kg) or a high body weight above 275 pounds (125 kg) using this calculation is not ideal.
A Dietitian’s Take
Proper hydration status going into a workout is essential in order to perform well during that workout. Hydration is not the step you want to skip if you are looking to get the most benefit from your time in the box. Although calculating the exact amount of fluid you need during a day can be cumbersome and confusing, having some simple cues you can turn to throughout the day can have a huge impact on you being able to figure out how much water you actually need.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive approach to dialing in your fluid needs check out our Macros-Based Custom Nutrition Plan. We give you specifics regarding:
How much to drink first thing in the morning
How much to drink within the 2-hour window pre-workout
How to hydrate during your WOD
The appropriate amount of fluid to drink after your workout to recovery quickly