With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games approaching, Team USA athletes are preparing for the most pivotal moment of their lives in competing against the world’s best at such a high level. For those competing in outdoor events, one of the main factors that will play a role in their quests for the gold will most certainly be the climate.
Hotter and more humid climates provide an increased effort to hydrate because not only does it impact sweat rate, but when it’s humid, sweat droplets impacts, impedes, and prevents the transfer of heat to the body. These factors result in an increased sweat rate, making it harder for your body to cool itself off. If you sweat more, you need to hydrate more, focusing on electrolytes as they are lost when you sweat.
It often takes a couple of weeks for the body to fully adapt to new environments, making it important to create a hydration plan to adjust. There are ideas of cooling yourself such as cooling flurries, with the notion of keeping cool. However, over-hydration can be just as dangerous as dehydration as it can result in the dilution of the normal level of sodium.
When discussing the level of performance of Team USA athletes, it will vary depending on the timing of the event. Here are a few things to consider:
- Before: It’s important to start any event well hydrated, making sure that you have a hydration plan in place, which is part of a broader fueling plan.
- During: Try to get enough hydration in as possible to try not to lose 2% of your body weight, which will cause performance issues. This will prove to be tougher depending on the environment and distance length of the event.
- After: If you have to prepare for another event in the same day or even quickly after your first, you must rehydrate to make up for lost weight ASAP! It’s recommended to drink 16-24 ounces per pound of body weight lost. This also depends on the environment and distance length. You would need to hydrate for a 50 yard dash, but not the same amount as you would for a marathon.
Keeping yourself hydrated is very important when outdoors as dehydration can result in symptoms such as headaches, a rapid heartbeat, and fatigue. It is especially important to hydrate if you’re competing in any sport that requires high skill, explosiveness, and endurance such as a marathon. For effective hydration, make sure that you’re tracking your needs- a lot of the best plans are built before you get to the grand stage. Also, weighing yourself pre- and post-practice for fluids and body weight loss can help you adjust your plan to stay in range.
For a quick reference, take a look at this Fluid Facts infographic with data I pulled together for the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery.
Jason Machowsky is a sports dietitian, registered clinical exercise physiologist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist at the Tisch Performance Center. He has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Columbia University, and has authored a book on nutrition and wellness.