The Hydration Equation

Dehydration impairs performance. An increase in heart rate,  perceived exertion, impaired heat regulation and reduced mental ability are some of the bodily functions that are impacted. To gain an athlete’s insight, SMG sat down with triathlete and brand ambassador Sam Betten to discuss the subject and the reason behind Sam’s current focus on hydration.

One of the greatest components in athletic performance is hydration. This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering that water in our bodies helps to regulate temperature, digestion not to mention assisting in removing waste products such as lactic acid. In cold training and competition conditions hydration will not play as big of a role in performance. However when temperatures and humidity levels rise, performances between those properly hydrated and those who are not can be significant. Sports scientists have concluded that a 2-3% hydration loss can equal a 10-15% drop in muscular endurance and strength!

The difficult aspect of proper hydration is that every athlete has a different sweat rate as well as sodium loss which is made even more difficult to calculate with air temperature and humidity levels during different training and competitions.

During my time as a professional athlete I have had the opportunity to work with some of Australia’s top nutritionists and sports scientists which has helped to enlighten me about what suits me best. However in saying that, being that I am 6ft4 tall with a larger body mass I am more susceptible to the effects of heat and dehydration during competition and training. Over the last few months I have been exploring different avenues to help me find out more about what needs to be done in order to be successful in the hot and humid racing conditions specifically in the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

The first step that I am undergoing is a very simple one which everyone can do. I start by stepping on the scales before a key training session (minimal clothing to get an accurate body weight) and then weighing myself at the end of the training session (again, minimal clothing and skin wiped dry of sweat). It is also important to keep note of fluids ingested during the training session as well as any bathroom breaks. By doing this weigh in and with some simple mathematics calculations you can pretty easily compile a list of data for various training sessions to get a fairly accurate idea of your fluid loss. It is also important to take note of the intensity of the session as well as the temperature. Having this information will really help you come up with a fluid replacement strategy suited to you and based on the temperatures you are training and competing in.

Fluid loss is one thing, however where it gets a little more complicated is adding in sodium, electrolyte and calorie replacements through proper sports nutrition. This is something that is so varied with individual athletes and can be influenced by air temperatures, humidity as well as pacing.

It is so important to remember that hydration is not a fixed equation and that everyone reacts differently and has different needs based on variables such as those aforementioned. Some calculated trial and error is often the best recipe for success and it is important to compile and track your findings to improve your hydration strategy over time.

Sam Betten, SMG Ambassador and Professional Triathlete