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Optimal Hydration and Performance for High-Intensity Athletes – Tips from Athletes Kitchen

Did you know that water accounts for about 50-60% of total body mass, and 75-80% of muscle mass? For every gram of glycogen stored, you also store 3 grams of water.

Water is an essential non-nutritive nutrient that we must consume to survive. We can live without food much longer than without water. Water serves as a medium where chemical reactions take place, transports nutrients and wastes, provides lubrication and protection, regulates body temperature, and helps maintain acid-base balance in the body.

The three main electrolytes are sodium, potassium and chloride. (Magnesium, calcium, and phosphate are three other electrolytes). Electrolytes are important for nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and fluid balance.

The current recommendation for water intake is around 3.7 liters a day for men and 2.7 liters a day for women. Another way to put this is around 2/3 of your pounds of body weight, in fluid ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you would want to consume 100 ounces of water. For reference, 1 cup is 8 ounces, therefore you would want to consume around 12-13 cups of water.

Did you know that milk is around 90% water, apples are about 85% water and roast beef is around 50% water? It is best to get most water from fluids, however, 20% water intake can come from foods.

  • 1 cup of Watermelon = 150 ml of water
  • 1 cup of Broccoli = 150 ml water
  • 1 cup of Cooked Brown Rice = 150 ml of water
  • 1 cup Yogurt = 200 ml of water
  • 1 cup of 1% Milk = 200 ml of water

It is best to break up your water throughout the day versus consuming in gulps. I like to recommend consuming about 1 cup of water every hour. During the hour, take little sips on the cup of water. Once done, get up and refill it. This also gets you up and moving 🙂

As mentioned, electrolytes are very important for metabolic processes in the body.  Unfortunately, the modern diet is high in sodium chloride (salt) and low in potassium. About 77% of salt consumed is from that added to food during processing and manufacturing, with about 12% coming from salt found naturally in food, and 11 % from salt added in cooking or at the table.

The recommended intake for adults is 1500 mg sodium per day, and 2300 mg chloride per day. For potassium, the recommendation is 3400 mg per day for men, and 2600 mg per day for women. In other words, it is recommended to have 3.8 grams of salt per day.

How to read a nutrition label when it comes to sodium content:

Sodium free Contains less than 5 mg of sodium PER SERVING
Low sodium Contains 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
Reduced or lower in sodium Contains at least 25% less sodium per serving than a reference food
No salt added No salt was added during processing
Lightly salted Contain at least 50% less added sodium per serving than that which is added to a reference food

Foods high in potassium:

  • 1 medium Banana = 400 mg
  • 1 cup Broccoli = 400 mg
  • 1 medium Sweet Potato = 700 mg
  • 1 cup low fat plain Yogurt = 550 mg
  • 3 oz of Halibut = 500 mg
  • 1 medium Orange =250 mg
  • 1 large raw Carrot = 250 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked Lentils = 350 mg
  • 3 oz Beef = 350 m


24-hour Movement Guidelines

Not only does Canada have food and exercise guidelines; it also has 24-hour movement guidelines.

Within our 24-hour day, we should be active, reduce sedentary time, and get enough sleep. According to the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, following the 24-hour movement guidelines is associated with a lower risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, anxiety, depression, dementia, weight gain and adverse blood lipid profiles. Furthermore, it also can bring improvement in bone health, cognition, and quality of life and physical function.

So, what does that look like?

According the Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines, we should partake in moderate to vigorous activity for 150 minutes a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This can be running, speed walking on an incline, swimming, dancing, partaking in racket sports, and many others.  The purpose is to elevate your heart rate.

We should also partake in resistance training each main muscle group, at least twice a week.  This can be with your own body weight, with dumbbells or barbells, or with machines etc. The point is to produce tension on the muscle, and create some metabolic stress and muscle damage to promote muscular growth or the maintenance of muscle mass.

In addition to aerobic and anaerobic training, we should move for several hours, which includes walking, standing, cleaning, vacuuming, running errands etc. It is recommended to accumulate over 8000 steps per day. For reference, a ten-minute walk will produce around 1000 steps.

We should aim to limit sedentary time to 8 hours or less. And we should aim to break up long periods of sitting as often as possible. A general rule I like to provide my clients is for every 90 minutes of sitting, get up and move for ten minutes. It is important to take a break not only for physical health, for mental focus as well.

CSEP also recommends that we should have no more than 3 hours of recreation screen time per day. This is going to be twofold: helping with movement during the day and helping with sleep throughout the night.

Lastly, the recommendation with regards to sleep is to get 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep on a regular basis, with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time (within 30 minutes would be a good target). I like to recommend that you turn off electronics around 1-2 hours before bed, aiming for before 10 pm and slowly start getting ready for bed. Create a bedtime routine and get in the habit of being consistent. Additionally, in the morning it is recommend to get some sunlight exposure.


One liter of sweat loss is equivalent to around 1 KG. A loss of 2% body weight is considered dehydrated. 

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electrolytes, exercise, nutrition, training, water