Topics of Hydration and Nutrition Recovery

Contributed by Dr. Jon Herting

We all know that preventing dehydration and eating properly are an imperative aspect of optimal performance and recovery from exercise. Exercise will deplete both your hydration status and your energy stores, while breaking down your muscle. This is why it is imperative that the athlete replace this fuel to aid in the replenishment of these stores and aid in your recovery.

Fat, protein and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients that are needed to sustain life. Generally, after exercise it is important to replenish your bodies protein and carbohydrate stores. It is not only important to replenish these stores but to do so using high quality, non-processed foods free from preservatives and chemical additives. If supplementation must be used seek out sources that are certified to be free of banned substances and that use only high quality ingredients.

Based on the most current research, if you are trying to maintain muscle mass it is estimated that the athlete needs to include 1.4 -1.6 g per kg of bodyweight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds) of protein per day. If you are looking to add muscle mass daily dietary protein intake should be between 2-2.5 g per kg of bodyweight.

Not only is it important to replenish these stores but to do so within a reasonable time after the cessation of exercise. This ensures the optimal absorption of these nutrients. Recent studies suggest that ingesting 10 g of protein very quickly after exercise offers the most benefit with significant effects being noted with ingesting this up to 3 hours after exercise if you cannot eat right away. To replenish carbohydrates it is important to target 1 g per kg of body weight repeated every hour until your normal meal patterns begin to help you replenish these needs.

Being able to meet these nutritional needs may be an integral part to you meeting those gains that are often hard to come by in the gym.

Staying hydrated can also be a challenge, especially during the summer months. Water represents 40-70% of body mass and takes a predominant role in all metabolic processes. This is why when you are insufficiently hydrated you may experience the following signs and symptoms as taken from, The Mayo Clinic:

•Dry, sticky mouth

•Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual


•Decreased urine output

•No wet diapers for three hours for infants

•Few or no tears when crying

•Dry skin



•Dizziness or lightheadedness

As you can see, each of these signs and symptoms may equate to decreased performance on the field.

It is known that the avg active adult in a neutral environment requires 2.5 L of water a day. This equates to about 10.5 cups per day. Active individuals may require 5-10 L per day which significantly increases the amount of fluid these individuals must consume in order to stay hydrated and on top of their game.

Studies have shown that a water deficit of just 2% of body weight reduces aerobic performance by almost 20%. Dehydration may also negatively affect mental performance, memory and psychomotor ability (Grandjean and Grandjean (2007).

Two very easy indicators of hydration are urine color and feelings of thirst. First, if you are feeling thirsty this is often an indicator that you are already dehydrated so that should be your cue to have a drink. Second, your urine color can be a very telling indicator of how hydrated you may be. The below chart can be used to help you decide whether or not you are adequately hydrated.

Using the tips above to guide both your eating and hydration habits can be the final piece to you achieving higher levels of success in the gym and on the field.


Hausswirth, C., & Mujika, I. (Eds.). (2013) Recovery from Performance in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Grandjean, A.C. and N.R. Grandjean. 2007. Dehydration and cognitive performance. J Am Coll Nutr 26(5):5545S-557S



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