I know I’ve had a good workout when I finish dripping in sweat. With my current training programme aimed at getting me ready for the World Championships in Bulgaria this August, pretty much every session is a sweaty one! I’ve done a lot of sports and even compared to running a marathon, there is nothing like a martial arts sparring session to get your heart pumping and the sweat flowing. Which is why I have to take hydration very seriously.
It’s fairly common knowledge that even a 2% loss of body weight in fluid causes dehydration. Dehydration of 1-2% of body weight begins to compromise physiologic function and negatively influences performance. Dehydration initiates a cascade of events in which blood volume decreases, causing a compensatory increase in heart rate, followed by a decrease in stroke volume due to the increased heart rate and decreased filling time of the heart (Casa et al., 2000). According to the journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, for every 1% of body mass you lose through sweat, your heart rate increases by three beats per minute. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985; Craig and Cummings 1966; Maughan 1991; Sawka and Pandolf 1990). All in all, to be able to perform at your best, it’s very important to be hydrated.
I’m always carrying around my bottle of water to try and ensure I drink enough each day. On an average day I’ll drink about 3 litres of water.
However, for long tough training sessions or at competitions, I find drinking water alone isn’t enough to prevent me having the classic signs of being dehydrated, such as a headache and muscle cramps by the end of the day. I now know it’s because water alone doesn’t replace the electrolytes I’m busy sweating out also. The electrolyte composition of sweat varies from person to person, but mostly compromises of:
A litre of sweat typically contains 0.02g Calcium, 0.05g Magnesium, 1.15g Sodium and 0.23g Potassium. This composition will vary from person to person (Hamilton 2005).
It is of course possible to replace the electrolytes with food, which makes a smoothie a great option. However the two main factors that affect the speed at which fluid from a drink gets into the body are: the speed at which it is emptied from the stomach and the rate at which it is absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. The higher the carbohydrate levels in a drink the slower the rate of stomach emptying. Thus getting the electrolytes in without carbs throughout the time I’m training or competing and then being able to get the food nourishment in once I’ve finished is ideal.
I’ve always been fairly anti regular sports drinks, as while isotonic and hypotonic ones do contain electrolytes and low levels of carbohydrates they are often full of processed sugar and lots of strange ingredients and chemicals I can barely pronounce and definitely don’t want in my body. Here are the ingredients from a very well know sports brand drink:
Water, Glucose Syrup, Acid (Citric Acid), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K), Flavouring, Vitamins (Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, B6, B12), Stabiliser (Acacia Gum), Colour (Beta-Carotene). You can find out which one here.
Several of those are not good and in particular aspartame which is put into so many drinks to sweeten them and has been called ones of the most dangerous substances added to most foods today. There is a great video here: https://youtu.be/TB6L9S_jc5E which explains why!
So when my lovely friend Gab went to the Om Yoga Show several years ago and came back with a tube of Nuun tabs for me I was very happy and grateful, as they were exactly what I needed.
Nuun tabs are just electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. There is no sugar or carbs and certainly no aspartame in them and they come in a wide choice of flavour which all taste delicious.
I’ve now got tubes in all my sports bags and pop one into my water bottle when I have a long tough session or competition. The mix of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium is great at ensuring my muscles can keep working at full capacity for the whole session and most importantly my brain keep working too – as there is nothing like a kick or punch coming towards you to make having your brain in gear very important! My favourite flavour so far is the fruit punch and I’m looking forward to trying them all.
I also tend to take a bottle of coconut water, along to each long tough training session or competition as it’s an amazing source of potassium (as VitaCoco say, packed with more potassium that a banana, but don’t tell the monkeys!)
Which is essential in the generation of electrical impulses in the body that control muscle and brain function. However, it doesn’t contain that much sodium which is what helps regulate the total amount of water in the body. So with just one litre of sweat being able to flush out 1,300 milligrams of sodium, it’s essential to get that back in. Which is why I think combining having a bottle of coconut water and my water bottle with a nuun tab in is the ideal way to ensure I’m always hydrated and my mind and body can work to full capacity.