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Performance nutrition series: Hydration

Category: Uncategorized
19 March 2011, Comments: 0

Spring is just around the corner, the days are longer and the weather warmer (kinda). It’s time to come out of winter hibernation and begin training. Whether it’s for the next big marathon, Crossfit games, or your summer bod… proper training will help you get there quickly and safely. As we move through training season I’d like to address some key concerns that athletes face so feel free to post up topics or questions of interest. We will be covering topics like: food, snacks, protein shakes, sleep, meditation, breather, stress, weather, heat, sugar, ice, mind, flexibility, and more.

Much of what I share is inspired by my personal experiences and curiosity, no better way to learn than to fail. But remember if you are going to fail, fail fast and move forward. My training this year has taken me out of the cell, off the mat and on a saddle… A bike saddle that is. As a novice cyclist I thought what better way to learn how to cycle than to sign up for bike ride. It just so happens the one I signed up for covers about 545 miles over 7 days and consists of camping out in the middle of nowhere with 3000 people…. Insane? YES! Fortunately my insanity supports a good cause: I am riding to raise funds and awareness for the SF AIDS foundation, learn more here.

How does this have to do with Nutrition? Well, in the two months I have been training I have quickly learned one key rule: Eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. Okay, I can manage that. However after being on a bike for a couple of hours it is easy to get distracted and forget to eat and drink. Regardless of what you are training for the last thing you want is to be in the middle of competition hearing grunts and groans that are not coming from your mouth but instead your tummy.

Let’s talk about hydration. I personally don’t do much to hydrate outside of drinking plenty of water. Our bodies are primarily made up of water and when we sweat, we are losing water… right?

Kinda. It’s not quite that simple and because we are all different “bio individuality” there is no one size fits all prescription for hydration. You have to gauge for yourself how you feel and what you might need to replenish yourself. Sweating due to heat or activity results in a loss of water… true. Therefore drinking water before, during, and after activity is important. If you sweat excessively (soaking through your layers and leaving puddles) then you may be at higher risk for dehydration and must drink more water.

When you are endurance training and activity lasts longer than 90 minutes then your body begins to deplete not only water but electrolytes (The major electrolytes in the human body are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate and sulfate) minerals like potassium and sodium are most commonly found in drinks. Water plus these minerals play a special role in regulating cellular and systemic function.

Whether you are sprint training (quick and dirty wods) or endurance training (long and dirty) performance is directly correlated with proper hydration. As little as 2% in dehydration can impair performance up to 30%! Not worth it!

In my case as my rides are getting longer (3+ hours), one water bottle is no longer going to cut it. I haven’t been a fan of sugary electrolyte drinks like Gatorade but I do realize there is a value in electrolytes… Salt right? Well at least that’s what I experimented with, during one ride at a rest stop while everyone was drinking their Gatorade i refilled my water bottle with water and saw a salt shaker sitting on the counter…. Hmmm… I wonder if salt works… I shook a couple of teaspoons in my water and went on my way. A few miles later I took a gulp of what tasted like the ocean, which coated my mouth and prevented dryness. It seemed to do the trick. I finished the ride feeling great. Note: Sodium also makes you thirsty so it’s a good idea to have fresh water on hand.

I made a mental note to do some research and found that I wasn’t too far off in my experiment; table salt can do the trick however it doesn’t taste great and is not recommended in high quantities. But it is better than drinking the sugary sports drinks. The point is to replenish electrolytes through hydration and replenish energy through food (when possible); a sugar substitute only goes so far.

Tips to remember:

  • Gauge how much water loss YOU experience. This can be done through weighing before and after activity as well as monitoring urine color (dark is no good).
  • Remember to eat a balanced post workout meal with carbs to replenish glycogen stores.
  • Hydrate before, during and after activity.
    • Drink about 15-20 fl oz., 2-3 hours before exercise
    • Drink 8-10 fl oz. 10-15 min before exercise
    • Drink 8-10 fl oz. every 10-15 min during exercise
    • If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz. of an electrolyte drink every 15-30 mins
    • After exercise drink 20-24 fl oz. water for every 1 lb lost.

Electrolyte Alternatives

  • Coconut water
  • Make your own

Electrolyte Drink recipes:

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1/2 cup orange juice OR 1/2 mashed banana (these provide potassium)
2 Tbsp sugar OR 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 liter water
lemon juice to taste (if desired–just for flavor)

The Lip Twister – tart and sweet

1/4 cup of lemon juice

1/4 cup of lime juice

1 teaspoon of salt

1 whole squeezed orange (or one frozen can of orange juice)

1 liter of water

Easy Sweet – not too sugary

2 cups of coconut milk

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of Stevia (natural sweetener) or honey

Try out some of these recipes or come up with your own and report back!


Ritu Riyat


Spring Time Nutrition Challenge is starting! Sunday March 20th. To register visit:

Hydrostatic Body Fat Testing: Tuesday March 22nd from 3-7 pm.

Special package for crossfitters. 1 dunk for $40 or 3 dunks for $99.

To reserve your slot here:

Go to:

Select date: March 22nd

Select Location: Crossfit Milpitas

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