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Ways to Increase Fluid Intake and Ensure Proper Hydration

Performance Nutrition Coach Ken Hoover works 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?

ALL YOU CAN. 

To individualize this answer, however, we need specific information. What's your height and weight? What’s your sport? How are you training? What's the weather like where you train and compete?

There are so many factors that affect hydration, so how much you should drink varies. Most people can process about a gallon of water in a day. Let’s use that as a baseline.

Let’s also consider water loss during activity. For example, two football practices per day in the Texas August heat could result in several pounds of water lost in a day. Depending on how much weight is lost, an athlete might require an extra gallon or several liters. Sweat rates vary per athlete.

How do I find out how much water I need?

Test yourself. Run through your event at competition pace or effort level and gauge how much you can drink. Go into your trial well hydrated, so depending on the intensity and duration of your event, start drinking a day or two ahead. You want all you can consume comfortably leading up to and during your trial (consume comfortably means without needing a bathroom break).

Additionally, learn to increase your intake. If you can process six liters, try to increase your threshold to eight, then 10, then 12 liters. Remember, no matter who you are or what you do, water is critical. You need the right amount to deliver key nutrients and energy molecules throughout your body. The appropriate quantity helps deliver carbohydrates and electrolytes efficiently so you feel and perform your best.

How do I stay motivated to drink more?

This is a great question! Staying inspired to consume fluids is a common problem for almost everyone, and there’s no single answer. Adding mixes like Honey Stinger’s Rapid Hydration Mix is a great way to get flavor, electrolytes, and variety.

Three things that are critical to athletes regarding hydration are:
  1. Decision making. In every sport, decisions are made during competition that impact outcomes. Studies have shown that a 30% loss of cognitive ability can result from a 5% hydration shortfall. Don’t compete with 70% of your cognitive abilities when you can easily compete with 100%.
  2. Blood volume and viscosity. Maintaining normal blood volume and viscosity (or thickness) allows blood to reach your body’s organs. When you’re dehydrated, volume decreases and viscosity increases. Your blood pressure drops and your organs don’t receive the oxygen and nutrients they need. Most of the general population is largely (60-70%) chronically dehydrated, causing issues that impact overall health beyond competition.
  3. Competitive advantage. If your body is properly hydrated before, during, and after an event, you’ll be performing at your peak. Be intentional about preparation by focusing on boosting consumption. Every athlete is different, but a good reference 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.