Ritual, a practice, is what makes you perform day after day, year after year. At Spartan, we’re never about doing a fitness feat once. Selecting actionable, sustainable rituals that power your performance, push your limits and gain results is key to living the Spartan Way. In this series, we share how to build healthy rituals that last so you can optimize (and revolutionize) your life. Think: screw resolutions—this is for the long game. Let’s make rituals instead.
Sponsored by our partner, Ritual Zero Proof
Every smart athlete knows if you're not hydrated, you can kiss gains goodbye. Hydration is crucial to optimal health, performance and recovery. But, staying well hydrated is much more than chugging water on the regular.
If you work out frequently in scorching temps, you may need to supplement your H2O with electrolytes — or, risk muscle cramps. According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, athletes who drank carbohydrate-electrolyte rich beverages before and during training experienced a delay in the onset of spasms.
Poor desk-job habits, crappy sleep hygiene, and regular alcohol consumption all also seriously hinder hydration.
The bottom line: there’s a smart way to hydrate. But you may need extra tools (like drinking on a schedule or switching up the contents of your water bottle), just to stay on top of it. We’ve got your back with this Spartan-worthy plan so you can keep hydrated and perform at your max.
Simple, Actionable Hydration Tips for Athletes
7-Day Plan to Incorporate Healthy H2O Habits
Staying well hydrated takes constant vigilance, especially when you’re working out and sweating up a storm. Use these simple, RD-approved tricks to build a sustainable hydration routine so you never compromise your performance.
Day 1 — I.D. Your Hydration Weak Spots
First, take stock of your lifestyle. Chances are, if you’re living the Spartan Way, you workout 5-7 days per week in all kinds of conditions. (No excuses, right?) That means you’re training in the dead of winter, blaze of summer, and your training program has a mix of HIIT-type sessions and sustained long-form exercise. While those factors form an unstoppable fitness regimen, you’ll have to adjust your hydration habits to keep up. “Optimal hydration requires a balance of both fluids and electrolytes,” says Marley Oldham Carnes, MS, RDN, CSCS. “Possible causes of under hydration include high volume of sweat, intense workouts, long workouts, heavy workouts in cold weather with multiple layers, and during hot and humid conditions.”
Write down a list of things that could impair or distract you from your hydration efforts. For example, you may like to indulge in a frequent nightcap. Or you may work a sedentary job. Or you may live and exercise in a harsher climate. Seeing your hydration hindrances on paper helps build awareness around pain points in your lifestyle where you should be extra mindful of H2O intake.
From there, you can take action… like cutting out booze one night per week. Or keeping a full water bottle near your desk. Or comparing the weather report with your training program to hydrate smarter for long runs or interval circuits in especially hot or cold temperatures.
While each individual’s fluid intake varies upon lifestyle, a good metric to shoot for, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
Getting into the habit of adjusting your hydration program to hit these numbers, at minimum, will help you immensely in the long run.
Days 2-4 — Add Electrolytes to Your H2O
Wise up about what’s in your water bottle or hydration pack. By sticking to H2O exclusively, you may dilute existing electrolyte, vitamin and mineral stores as you sweat. Instead, make your water work for you.
“Definitely consider adding electrolytes to your water to get them into your bloodstream to assure you’ve replenished in that department too — it's not just about water,” says Oldham Carnes. Pick up electrolyte powders at your local health food store to supplement your water intake and eat electrolyte-rich gummies during longer workouts where you’re exerting effort for more than an hour.
Day 5 — Study Up on Warning Signs
As they say, knowledge is power. If you’re not paying attention to what it’s like to be dehydrated, how the heck are you going to recognize and respond to the warning signs? The last thing you want is to catch a cramp during a race because you weren’t drinking wisely.
So, Oldham Carnes says a good rule of thumb is: you’re well hydrated if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow. However, if you experience headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, moodiness or irritability, nausea, dark or low volume urine, or cramps, you may be dehydrated. If that’s the case, amp up your hydration efforts (and stay mindful).
Day 6 — Cut Out the Booze
It might sound like a no brainer, but we must stress the importance of avoiding (or cutting back on) alcohol consumption… especially as an athlete. Alcohol intake stimulates the excretion of water via your kidneys, which can lead to rapid dehydration and altered mineral balance of potassium, magnesium, and others that impact muscle recovery. “If your muscles are missing these minerals, performance drops,” says Oldham Carnes.
If you don’t want to miss out on the social side of drinking but do want to steer clear of booze, mix yourself up a fun, booze-free mocktail like Ritual N/A tequila with bubbly water and a twist of lime or this N/A hot toddy.
If you do want to indulge, Oldham Carnes says to pair every alcoholic beverage you drink with an 8 oz glass of water in a 1:1 ratio. “Not only will this help you drink less alcohol, but consumption of less calories will take place as well,” she says.
Day 7 — Stick to a Simple Daily Hydration Schedule
It’s more beneficial to drink regularly throughout the day than to slam a bunch of water and play catch up. “Water and electrolytes should be consumed throughout the day to maintain adequate fluid levels as well as optimal electrolyte levels,” says Oldham Carnes. Constant sipping ensures your tissues and organs receive frequent doses of fluids to promote proper cellular metabolism and function. She recommends drinking fluids to replenish on a schedule:
- In the morning
- Pre training
- During training
- Post training/acute rehydration
- If you have multiple training sessions during the day or less than 24 hours between sessions
- Before bed