How to Test whether you are Hydrating Correctly

How to Test whether you are Hydrating Correctly

Written by Simone Bourner, APD and Accredited Sports Dietitian

Did you know that being dehydrated any more than 1% of your body weight can impact negatively on your performance?  Dehydration makes it more difficult to make decisions and can cause you to fatigue earlier? Not what you want to stay on top on your game! Now that the weather is warming up it’s more important than ever to check in and see whether your hydration is up to scratch!

How does dehydration affect my performance?

Dehydration impairs:

  • The body’s ability to regulate heat = increase in body temp + heart rate
  • Perceived exertion = feel more fatigued and decreased work output
  • Mental function = decreased motor control, decision making, skill & concentration
  • Gastric emptying = stomach discomfort and reduced opportunity for fluid replacement


How do I know if I am dehydrated?

Symptoms of dehydration may include overheating, feeling thirsty, early fatigue, headaches, nausea, loss of concentration, muscle cramps and twitches and dark concentrated urine. Sweat rates differs depending on body size, age, exercise intensity, environment and fitness levels so there is no guideline that suits everyone. Some of the methods we use with our athletes to check their hydration is on point include:

Urine Specific Gravity (USG) Testing

Athletes bring a urine sample from first urination in the morning on the day of testing.  It is measured using a piece of equipment that detects the level of light. USG reading should be less than 1.02.

Fluid Balance Testing

The goal of fluid balance testing is to measure individual sweat rates, fluid replacement and to provide feedback and guidelines for individuals.

This involves

  1. Weighing in and out in minimal clothing pre and post session. Initial weigh in conducted after emptying bladder.
  2. Weigh pre and post urination to estimate fluid losses.
  3. Fluid intake is measured during session by weighing of water and sports drink bottles.


What fluids do I need?

For everyday hydration choose water as your main fluid and drink frequently throughout the day. For standard training sessions water is fine too. Keep a water bottle nearby and drink small amounts at every opportunity. If you are training or competing for over 90 mins, it is particularly warm or you know you are a salty sweater (think salt deposits on your lips and face when exercising, a feeling a salt crystals on the skin once sweat dries and a salt ring on clothing once sweat dries) you may choose to use a sports drink such as Gatorade, Staminade or Powerade to help provide carbohydrates and replace electrolytes. Post activity, aim to replace approximately 150% of fluid lost within 2-3 hours. Water with your recovery meal is usually suitable.


Practical Tips

-          Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink

-          Take a water bottle with you to training and sip often throughout the day

-          Check the colour of your urine and aim for a pale straw colour (think homemade lemonade). If it’s more like apple juice, you’re dehydrated!

-          Weigh yourself before and after training/game to estimate fluid losses

Chat to your Eat Smart Dietitian to work out an indivisualised hydration plan for your training or next event. We are also running a program to provide a FREE sports nutrition education presentation each month next year. Check us out on facebook at Eat Smart Nutrition Consultants or email to find out more.

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