Best Hydration Tools to Maximize Athletic Performance
Improving hydration is a checklist item for every athlete. But what tools and strategies do you have in place to ensure you’re progressing in your hydration goals?
Good hydration habits are, unfortunately, easy to break. You usually don’t realize your water uptake is slipping until you begin to experience the adverse effects of not being adequately hydrated.
Fortunately, some tools can help you build and reinforce strong hydration habits, improve your water quality, replenish essential nutrients lost in training, and, most importantly, keep your athletic performance supported with proper hydration levels.
This article breaks down everything you need to know about the importance of hydration for athletes and fitness, how dehydration negatively affects your athletic performance, and the tools to help you improve your hydration health.
Importance of Hydration for Athletes
Water plays a role in nearly every critical function in the body. It is responsible for facilitating and regulating body temperature, muscle contractions, energy production, blood volume, and nutrient transport.
Water is the medium for various chemical reactions in your body that are vital for energy output during exercise. Without it, nutrients and oxygen wouldn’t get transported to your muscles, high blood viscosity would lock the breaks on natural biological functions, and energy production would grind to a halt. There’s a reason why humans can survive only a few days without water.
Every time your muscles contract during exercise, your body only uses a small percentage of that energy to move your muscles. The rest of that excess energy takes the form of heat.
Your body has to maintain an optimal core temperature to function. When your core temperature increases from exercise, your body jumps into action to begin cooling you down. The most effective way for you to do this is through sweating.
For these processes to take place, you need to maintain adequate hydration levels before and after exercise. Additionally, when you sweat to control your body temperature, you accelerate the depletion of the water levels in your body – making rehydration during exercise just as important to maintain athletic performance.
Benefits of Proper Hydration
- Improves oxygen delivery to the muscles
- Essential for energy production
- Maximizes regulation of body temperature during exercise
- Transports nutrients and minerals throughout the body
- Flushes metabolic waste from the body
- Maintains blood pressure and proper blood viscosity
- Supplies lubrication to joints
- Protects the brain and spinal cord by supporting cerebrospinal fluid
- Facilitates weight loss
- Maximizes healthy cognitive function
Effects of Dehydration on Athletic Performance
When your hydration levels are too low, either from improper water intake before exercise or from depleted water in the body from sweating during exercise, your athletic performance begins to deteriorate once dehydration begins to take effect.
When your hydration levels get low, your body prioritizes how it uses water throughout your body. The critical functions that keep you alive get the highest priority, and everything else slowly gets less and less water allocated to it.
Since your hydration levels are low, your body begins to sweat less. When this happens, your ability to regulate your body temperature becomes compromised. Not only does this put you at risk for heatstroke, but it also diminishes muscle endurance and your capacity for power output.
Additionally, your heart has to work harder as your blood volume decreases and becomes thicker. Even worse, your body requires over 20% more glycogen when you’re dehydrated. Meaning that not only is your heart working harder, but your body is also depleting your energy stores far faster than when you’re hydrated.
What this means for you as an athlete is – the more dehydrated you are, the more your athletic performance suffers.
Best Hydration Tools for Athletes and Fitness
Luckily, a few tools can help you maximize your hydration habits and keep dehydration at bay.
Whether that be smart devices that remind you to drink when it slips your mind, tools that make drinking water more convenient, or even supplements and filtration that improves the quality of your water and hydration – we’ll cover the basics you need to amp up your daily hydration habits.
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Prices Updated 11/22/2021
Water Bottles That Remind You to Drink
Forming new habits takes much longer than many people realize. Research has shown that it can take around ten weeks of daily repetition before a new behavior becomes automatic, and you no longer have to think about doing it consciously.
This is why most goals of improving daily hydration (and most New Year’s resolutions) ultimately fail. You start off strong for the first few weeks, and then gradually, the behavior falters off without you noticing it happening.
Luckily, you can use technology to hack this process of habit formation. Since a device can be programmed, it won’t forget. All you have to do is swap out the water bottle that sits on your desk.
The HidrateSpark smart water bottle takes your hydration goals, monitors your intake, and most importantly, gently flashes LED lights to prompt you when it’s time to take a drink.
It’s simple, but simplicity is the most powerful driver in the formation of new habits. You no longer have to rely on memory, alarms on your phone, or gallon jugs with marker lines. The HidrateSpark takes care of reminding you to keep up your water intake and also monitors your daily hydration metrics right on your phone.
They also make fantastic gifts for the athletes and fitness enthusiasts in your life. When that person who’s always talking about how they need to get better at staying hydrated (especially coffee lovers) opens up the box, they immediately know it will be a game-changer for them.
Electrolyte Powders and Supplements
Water is only the primary driver of optimizing your body’s biological functions. Your body also needs electrolytes to balance the concentrations of fluids required for muscle contractions and activity in your central nervous system.
Most people maintain proper electrolyte levels through their nutrition alone. But as an athlete, you diminish these vital minerals much faster during intense exercise.
There are five essential electrolytes:
Sometimes you may need to supplement your electrolytes to ensure you maintain proper levels to maximize athletic performance. Ultima’s Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration powder provides you with all six electrolyte profiles without the added sugar or calories.
Most hydration powders offset the salty taste of electrolytes with tons of added sugar. While a “sweetener-free” hydration powder would likely end up in your trash after the first taste test, Ultima’s electrolyte powder opts for natural stevia instead of sugar.
A lot of athletes prefer to separate their supplementation and nutrition strategies. This means that added sugar and hidden calories are the first to get chopped out, making the Ultima Replenisher’s zero-calorie hydration mix a suitable choice that isn’t going to mess with their macro-nutrient balance.
However, if added sugar isn’t a factor for you, or you simply don’t like stevia, take a look at Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets. It has all the essential electrolytes and still substantially less sugar than most sports drinks.
Water Filtration Systems for Athletes
The quality of your water can be just as important as quantity in the long run.
While a glass of tap water now and then isn’t likely to give you much trouble, improving your hydration means you’re going to be drinking a lot of water. The water that comes out of your tap typically has a wide variety of sediments, chemicals, and micro-organisms contained within it. And in large quantities, these unwanted substances can add up and can increase the probability of encountering adverse side effects.
If you’re going to be drinking a lot of water, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s quality water without risking the accumulation of harmful contaminants.
The Berkey Water Filtration System is a game-changer for improving your water purity. It’s scientifically tested and proven to remove harmful contaminants with astounding levels of consistency.
What Are Some of the Contaminants That Berkey Filters Can Remove?
- Heavy Metals
- Viruses, Pathogens, and Bacteria
- Lead, Arsenic, and Mercury
- Chlorine and Chloramines
- Coliform and e-coli
If you’re going to be focusing on improving your daily water intake, it’s also a good idea to ensure that the water you’re drinking is of the highest quality. Instead of buying purified water bottles (whose costs adds up very quickly), the Berkey Water Filtration System is an excellent investment that will fundamentally shift your perspective on water quality.
If you’re an endurance athlete or simply love spending time outdoors and on the trails, maintaining adequate rehydration during exercise is mostly a challenge of convenience.
Carrying a water bottle on a run can be a nuisance, and most backpacks bounce around too much to be practical. Not all hydration packs are created equal either when it comes to using them for training.
The Osprey Duro is a phenomenal hydration pack that form fits to your body. If you’ve ever run with poorly designed hydration packs that bounce around with every stride before, you’ll immediately notice the difference in design when you try on the Osprey Duro.
Running with a hydration pack gives you rehydration by convenience. It provides you with 1.5L of water, readily accessible by a nozzle attached to your chest. Dehydration can kick in quickly during endurance training. Having a consistent water supply with you while you train ensures you train safely and can give maximum effort throughout your entire training session.