Chad Collins, BSc, RD, CDE
With all the talk about illegal performance enhancers in sport, the most important performance enhancer; water is completely legal and available anywhere.
Water’s most important role during physical activity is regulating body temperature. Active muscles generate heat, which must be removed. The evaporation of sweat from skin is the most effective way to cool the body. Heavy or prolonged sweating can lead to dehydration. This is a major cause of fatigue and poor performance and also increases the risk of cramps, heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke.
Limit or avoid alcohol, tea, coffee, cola, or any other drinks containing caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, increasing fluid loss.
Many people ask about the use of sports drinks. Plain cool water is sufficient for events or training lasting one hour or less. Beverages containing four to eight per cent carbohydrate, as well as electrolytes, are beneficial when activity lasts longer than one hour.
Check the labels of sport drinks for 4g to 8g of carbohydrates (glucose, glucose polymer or sucrose) per 100ml of prepared beverage. Choose one that tastes good when you are exercising. Try it in training first, rather than on race day. WH