HomeNutritionHow Much Water do Triathletes Need?

How Much Water do Triathletes Need?

Over, the recommendation is to drink enough to quench your thirst, plus a little more.

Water is one of the most important nutrients in any well-balanced eating plan. Drinking too little water or losing too much through sweating can inhibit your ability to exercise to your potential.

Not only does water keep our bodies hydrated, it also acts in the blood as a transport mechanism, eliminates metabolic waste products in urine, dissipates heat through sweat, helps to digest food and lubricates joints and cushions organs. So you see, water is a much needed and essential nutrient which is crucial to our survival and athletic performance.

How much water do you need during training?

Many have heard the saying, “ drink 6-8 glasses of water per day.” Well this is true, but for sedentary persons. As athletes, we need from 12-16 glasses of water per day.

Most of the time it is very easy to consume this much (during training) but often times you may feel as if that is an impossible number. No need to worry. Remember, foods also have water in the m (fruits and vegetables especially) and so do different drink products.

Be careful though, caffeinated beverages have dehydrating effect so for you heavy coffee and soda drinkers, beware. A good rule of thumb is to consume twice as much water as you did in the caffeinated beverage to make up fo the fluid loss. Pure, refreshing water (12-16 glasses per day) is always the best choice since we, as athletes, are in training most times of the year.

What is thirst?

Thirst, as defined by a conscious awareness of the desire for water and other fluids, usually controls water intake. The sensation of thirst is triggered by abnormally highly concentrated body fluids. When you sweat, you lose significant amounts of water from your blood. The remaining blood becomes more concentrated and had, for example, an abnormally high sodium level. This triggers the thirst mechanism and increases your desire to drink. To quench your thirst, you must replace the water losses and brink the blood back to its normal concentration.

Should you only drink if you feel thirsty?

Having said this, you should not trust your thirst mechanism. By this I mean, when you feel thirsty, you are probably already partially dehydrated and it takes much longer to re-hydrate yourself than it does to maintain your hydrated state.

Thirst can be blunted by exercise or overridden by the mind. You will voluntarily only replace 2/3 of your sweat losses. Carry a water bottle with you during the day to ensure you are drinking adequate amounts. Be careful to carrying to big of a water bottle though. Some people can do it but most people who carry larger than a bike size water bottle do not drink it all because it sits and gets warm. This will just deter from your hydrated state.

Take frequent breaks to fill up your water bottle and use the restroom. If you are following the above guidelines, you should be visiting the restroom quite frequently throughout the day!

One last way to determine if you are staying hydrated is by the amount and color of your urine. As I said previously, you should be visiting the restroom frequently throughout the day. But what is more important, is that you are excreting a fair amount of clear or pale yellow urine.

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Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, LD/N, CSCS
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, LD/N, CSCS

Bob Seebohar is a Registered Dietitian specializing in sports nutrition for endurance athletes.  He is also an exercise physiologist and USA Triathlon Certified Level III Elite Coach.  Bob has completed over 100 endurance events including five Ironman races, the Boston Marathon, the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race and the Leadville 100 mile trail run.  He was also a member of the 1996 US National Duathlon Team and competed in the World Championships in Ferrara, Italy.  He is also the author of the book, “Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes: Taking Sports Nutrition to the Next Level” (Bull Publishing, 2004).

Bob provides sports nutrition consulting and coaching to all ages, types and abilities of endurance athletes. 


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