Staying Hydrated: How drinking enough water can help you achieve peak performance

Keeping in line with our Elite Athlete Training series, we are going to look at what role staying hydrated plays in an athlete’s performance and how it might affect them from reaching their maximum potential.

What is Hydration?

A constantly overlooked factor during training is ensuring that the athlete is properly hydrated. Proper hydration is essential to perform at their peak, especially when taking part in high intensity training. Water is also a key nutritional component for athletes.

There are two extremes to this rule. On one end, we have athletes beginning their workouts dehydrated and on the other, we have hyperhydrated athletes. According to research done by Robert W. Kenefick, being “more than 2 percent dehydrated in warm environments can cause a drastic decline in sports performance”. Also, over drinking water can lead to a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia.


What does dehydration do to your body?

  • Dehydration causes your blood volume to lower – Lower blood volume leads to the blood becoming thicker meaning your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood
  • Dehydration can increase your breathing rate – Dehydration has been shown to lead to breathlessness or rapid breathing as the body struggles to provide the cells with the energy they require.
  • Dehydration lengthens your recovery time – Dehydration leads to fatigue and slows down the processes behind breaking down and growing muscles.
  • Decreased sweat rate – Sweating is an essential technique our body utilizes to maintain body temperature. Reduced water intake can lead to heat exhaustion and heat strokes.
  • Increased rate of muscle glycogen use – Rapid depletion of glycogen reserves leads to muscle fatigue in dehydrated state.

All of these things cause your body to work too hard making it difficult for your body to meet aerobic demands. If your body is exerting itself due to dehydration, then you end up with lesser energy leading to sub-optimal performance.

Symptoms of dehydration

Athletes should not rely on thirst as an indicator of when to drink water, and coaches should not restrict water as punishment, as this could lead to a reduction in performance and possible serious health consequences.

Some of the following symptoms can be used as an indicator for dehydration:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Reduced urine output (You should be peeing at least once an hour!!!)
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Muscle cramps
  • Chills
  • Feeling disorientated
  • Vomiting or nausea
Hydration Blog Infographic

How to ensure you stay hydrated?

  1. Work with your trainer to develop an individualised hydration plan.
  2. Begin your exercise well hydrated and ensure you do not drink more water than you sweat. Monitoring your weight during workouts will help you keep tabs on this. You shouldn’t be gaining weight due to hydration.
  3. Measure your personal sweat rate by measuring your weight before and after a 30 minute workout without hydrating. Double the difference in body weight and you know how many litres you lose every hour of your workout.
  4. Electrolytes play a key role in ensuring your tissues stay hydrated and help transfer water between different cell membranes. For efficient water absorption, the body needs sodium and glucose/sucrose which can be supplemented via diet.
  5. It’s never too early to start preparing yourself to be well hydrated. For whatever event you are planning on competing in, start hydrating days in advance.

Two down, three more to go. The next blog post in the series is on Mental Preparedness in training. See you guys next week.


1) Reducing Risk in Sports: The importance of hydration
– Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC, president, National Athletic Trainers’ Association

– Nichole DeHart-Kribs

3) A Coach’s Responsibility: Learning How to Prepare Athletes for Peak Performance
– Scott R. Johnson, Pamela J. Wojnar, William J. Price, Timothy J. Foley, Jordan R. Moon, Enrico N. Esposito, and Fred J. Cromartie

4) Hydration Preparation for Sports Performance
– Brandon Jackson and Dr. Liz Wheeler

5) Dehydration and Rehydration