Below are some of the most relevant points I found in a journal article I read regarding factors to consider when designing and implementing hydration strategies.
It’s well known by wrestlers that the body’s level of hydration is constantly changing based on water being lost to make weight. If you check your weight throughout the day, it’s pretty easy to see and monitor these changes.
Therefore, if you’re looking to maintain an adequate level of hydration, replacing lost fluid depends on your drinking. However, your body doesn’t “set off” its thirst mechanism until your water loss reaches between 1-2% of your body weight. Therefore, it’s important to have strategies in place to prevent you from reaching this point.
The desire to drink water doesn’t occur until you’re already somewhat dehydrated. As a result, wrestlers regularly practice and compete in a dehydrated state.
Research cited by the authors suggests that even this minor level of dehydration impairs both practice and competition performance as well as brain activity.
But, before you can appropriately design a hydration plan, you must consider a number of factors to ensure effectiveness.
Here are what the authors believe are the nine most relevant factors to consider:
1. Temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors. Obviously, the hotter it is and the more humid it is, the more likely you are to sweat.
2. Consider the individual differences. For instance, some people may have different cues that let them know when it’s time to drink. One wrestler may notice it is affecting their physical performance. Another may discover that it impacts their mental performance first.
3. Look at different society/religious reasons that may influence fluid consumption. Religious fasting is one example.
4. The type of fluid and the taste impacts whether or not it’s consumed. For instance, one of the wrestlers I work with likes adding different flavors to bottled water because he prefers the taste. By using these different flavor additives, he’s more likely to drink. Ultimately, this helps him to maintain an adequate level of hydration.
5. You should also consider personal opinions. For example, a certain wrestler may feel as though being dehydrated doesn’t negatively affect their performance. Others may feel that it has a huge impact. One of the considerations the authors suggest is fluid consumption and body weight. Obviously there is an immediate impact on the scale after you consume water. So appropriately timing water intake should be part of any sustainable plan.
6. Keep in mind that thirst increases when a person is eating. The authors cite research that shows between 69-78% of fluid consumption occurs at meal time.
7. The authors also cite research that you, as a wrestler, already know- fluid restriction for 24 hours increases your feelings of thirst, mouth dryness, as well as an unpleasantness of the taste in your mouth.
8. It has shown that people drink less when they are preoccupied with some kind of physical and/or mental task. It is therefore important to schedule times to stop for fluid replacement. Additionally, if fluids are readily available there is an increased likelihood they will be consumed.
9. Research suggests that people consume more fluid when they are calm compared to when they are excited.
Hoffman, J., C. Maresh. Nutrition and Hydration Issues for Combat Sports Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 33(6), 10-17. December 2011.