Ways to Increase Fluid Intake and Ensure Proper Hydration

Performance Nutrition Coach, Ken Hoover is fortunate to work with athletes competing at a high level every day. We asked for his advice on leveraging hydration to keep a competitive edge. Here's what he had to say. 

How much water should I drink, a day, as an athlete?

Asked in that way, my answer would have to be: ALL YOU CAN

In order to get specific, more information would be necessary. What's your size? What's your sport? How well conditioned are you for that sport? What's the weather like where you train or compete? How much water do you drink in a day currently?

So many factors affect hydration, so it's important to keep that in mind and plan accordingly. 

As a general rule, most people (athletes tend to be on the high end) can process about a gallon of water in a day. Lets start there as a baseline.

Obviously, you need to work in water loss during activity as a part of that answer. For example, two football practices per day in August out in the Texas heat could result in several pounds of weight (water) lost in a day. This athlete might require an extra gallon or several liters, depending on how much was lost. Sweat rates vary per athlete.

How do I find out how much water I need as an athlete?

It’s my recommendation that you run a test on yourself.

Rehearse your event at a pace or effort level similar to how you intend to compete. Try to see how much water you can effectively consume during that practice event. You should be well hydrated going into the trial so you’ll need to start hydrating a day or two ahead depending on the intensity and duration of your event. You want all the water you can comfortably consume leading up to, and during your trial event. Comfortably consume means without needing a bathroom break.

Finally, I would encourage you to learn to increase your ability to consume water. If you can process 6 liters, try to increase your threshold to 8…10…12. 

And remember, athlete or not, water is critical to all you do. You need the right amount of water to deliver key nutrients and energy molecules throughout your body. The right amount of water in your blood helps to efficiently deliver carbohydrates and electrolytes for optimal performance.  

How do I stay motivated to drink more water?

Good question! It’s a question without a single answer. It’s also a widespread problem for both competitors and the general population.

 The 3 things I try to leverage with competitors to help them value hydration are:

  1. Decision making. In every sport there are decisions made during competition that impact outcomes. Studies have demonstrated a 30% loss of cognitive ability resulting from a 5% shortfall in hydration. No one wants to compete with 70% of their cognitive abilities.
  2. Blood volume and viscosity. Most competitors in 2021 understand heartrate and its impact on ability to do work. Both volume and viscosity benefit from being well hydrated. Athletes who compete often appreciate the value proper hydration represents in competition and for overall well-being. General populations (non competitors) are largely (60-70%) chronically dehydrated to some extent, causing a number of issues that impact overall health beyond competition.
  3. Competitive advantage. If your body is properly hydrated before, during, and after an event, it will ensure you are performing at your peak. Be intentional about your preparation by focusing on upping hydration. Every athlete is different, but a good starting point is to aim for 400-800 milliliters of water per hour. 

Content provided by Ken Hoover, Performance Nutrition Coach and Program Designer

Ken has over 30 years of Nutrition Coaching with a focus on evidence based, proven, and compliant based programs using functional food. With a range of experience coaching and educating individuals, families, teams, schools, and school districts, Ken is an expert on all things nutrition.