How to maintain fluids

Friday, October 15, 2004
Man and woman running

No matter what your sport – running, cycling, swimming, tennis, walking or golf – fluids are essential. Follow these tips to stay well hydrated during exercise:

  • Start your exercise session well hydrated and be aware of your increased fluid needs in hot weather. Drink 400 – 600ml about two hours before exercise to top up fluid levels.
  • Take advantage of all breaks during your sport. Make drinks available for all these occasions and try to keep them cool (10-15 degrees Celcius) (eg pre-freeze drinks so that they will still be cool once they have melted).
  • Choose fluids that will help you meet all your nutrition goals. A sports drink provides extra carbohydrate (four to eight percent as glucose or a glucose-fructose mixture) for energy and added sodium (salt) to stimulate your thirst and help replace what’s lost in sweat (important for prolonged endurance events like Ironman triathlon). Both carbohydrate and sodium enhance the taste of sports drinks and therefore encourage you to drink more.
  • Don’t rely on visible sweat as a guide to your fluid needs. Some athletes can’t see their sweat losses (eg swimmers who are already wet, or cyclists whose skin is quickly dried as they speed through the air).
  • Aim to drink early in your exercise session and then at regular intervals. Most people can learn to drink about 600–1000ml an hour. For example, try drinking 150-350ml every 15-20 minutes.

After exercise, re-hydrate quickly as part of your immediate recovery plan. Weigh yourself to help determine how much fluid you have lost. Over the next couple of hours, plan to drink 50 percent more fluid than you lost (eg 1.5 litres if you lost one kilogram). Choose a recovery plan based first on fluids and high carbohydrate foods. Drinking a sports drink containing sodium can help with replacing fluid losses.

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