Performance

Hydration with INEOS TEAM UK

Keeping hydrated is essential, not only for exercise but for many of the important processes in the body to take place. When confined to home and being forced to work out indoors more than usual, staying hydrated can become increasingly difficult.

That is why in the latest part of the series looking at how INEOS TEAM UK, Team INEOS and Science in Sport are keeping our athletes fit during the lockdown period we have spoken to INEOS TEAM UK Head of Human Performance Ben Williams on the importance of hydration, how to best keep hydrated and how you can monitor your own hydration levels at home.

Hi Ben, today we are talking about the importance of hydration. Firstly, what impact does training indoors have on hydration levels?

Ben Williams: A majority of our athletes’ physical development is done indoors as it gives us a clean environment to progress and monitor physiological qualities compared to our sailing operations which are more about developing our technologies than athletes. Because of this our sailors were fortunately used to large volumes of indoor training before the COVID-19 lockdown.

There are a few challenges to overcome when it comes to indoor/static training. In short, athletes don’t get a cooling effect from airflow which they get from training and sailing outdoors which leads to two major challenges in thermo-regulation. We are uniquely designed to regulate our own body temperature, particularly in hot conditions, by losing water through the skin (perspiration), which in turn acts to cool the body helping to maintain a stable temperature. This is the body’s built in cooling device. In simple terms, as sweat droplets are released and rest on the skin they come in contact with airflow and provide a cooling mechanism. This is similiar to the chilly feeling you get when getting out of the swimming pool and your wet body meets the air and you get goose bumps.

Without airflow, such as when you are static indoors, this mechanism is compromised as the sweat only meets static air and the process is blunted resulting in increased body heat. This results in the body sweating more to overcome the rise in body heat in an attempt to self-regulate. As our sweat rate increases we start to lose excess fluid and the nutrients in sweat such as sodium and potassium. If this process was to continue with no intervention it would lead to dehydration and nobody wants to put themselves at risk.

INEOS TEAM UK sailor Chris Brittle
© HARRY KH_

To overcome these two challenges of thermo regulation and dehydration we have some key interventions that go a long way to mitigate the challenges of training indoors.

Firstly, we have partnered with Science in Sport (SiS) one of the world leaders in sports nutrition and exercise science. Their expertise and products have helped us develop a fuelling and hydration strategy for each session the sailors complete. This includes use of their Hydro supplement which dissolves in water and provides the vital nutrients lost during the sweat process. This allows athletes to compete long, warm sessions but maintain optimal nutrient levels to support this in-built cooling system we all have.

Secondly, we have an abundance of floor fans that the sailors use and position to suit their cooling preferences (front, back, face etc). Before lockdown our team gym would often look like a wind farm with multiple fans positioned to provide the airflow cooling effect during sessions.

Why is keeping hydrated so important to training and health in general?

Water in the body is essential for many important processes to take place. From our blood system carrying essential glucose, oxygen and nutrients to cells, to the kidneys getting rid of waste products we no longer want. Fluid in the body is vital to allow these to occur. It also lubricates our joints and eyes, helps our digestive system function and keeps our skin healthy.

As mentioned above we are designed to regulate our own body temperature by losing water through the skin (perspiration), which in turn acts to cool the body helping to maintain body. The more water we lose through sweat, the more we need to replace, so those who may lose more fluid than normal doing sporting activities for example will need to drink more fluids more regularly to replace that fluid lost through sweat.

Nick Hutton INEOS TEAM UK Trimmer grinder - Cagliari - Italy
© Lloyd Images / Mark Lloyd

Fluid is so important in the body that even when levels drop only slightly, we begin to feel the consequences. Low levels of fluid in the body can cause headaches, feelings of dizziness, lethargy, poor concentration and a dry mouth. Over a longer term, dehydration can cause constipation and can be associated with urinary tract infections and poor kidney health. Regular and adequate intakes of fluid can help to address these. A general guideline is that adults need to drink around 1.5–2 litres of fluid a day. A typical mug or glass is about 200 millilitres (ml) so this equates to 8-10 drinks a day. Children need slightly less and should aim for around 6-8 drinks a day, but once they reach teenage years their requirements are similar to adults. Don’t forget that fluid needs can vary depending on various factors including level of physical activity and climate.

How do we as a team monitor hydration levels – is there a science behind it?

Of course, we conduct focussed work around individual hydration for our sailors as do all elite sport environments. Optimising our athletes’ physical qualities and supporting their training is an essential part of our work. Especially for race durations and intensities. We have the ability to measure acute hydration levels in individuals by using the OsmoCheck unit as well as the “pee on urinalysis test strips”. We use these systems depending on focus (training or competition) and climate (the need for more attention).

We also use infographics presented around toilets and urinals to promote the self-check of urine colour. We can measure intermittently but athletes themselves can monitor and be accountable for their hydration by simply monitoring the colour of their pee and communicating with performance staff and taking action on the observation when passing water. 

There are also more comprehensive calculations for sweat rates that inform hydration protocols. Should you wish to investigate further these can be completed at home to inform your intakes. To accurately measure your sweat rate, follow this procedure:

  • Do a warm-up to the point where you start sweating 
  • Urinate if necessary 
  • Weigh yourself on an accurate scale 
  • Work out for a specific amount of time (1 hour easiest, but 30 minutes can work if you simply multiply your end sweat rate by two, giving you your sweat rate per hour) 
  • Drink a measured amount of your beverage of choice during the workout 
  • Do not urinate during the workout 
  • Weigh yourself again wearing EXACTLY what you wore during the initial weighing 
  • Enter data into the table below:

Sweat Rate Calculator:
This works best if converted into kilograms (kg) and millilitres (mL)

A. Body Weight pre‐exercise

                    

[lb/2.2 = kg]

B. Body Weight post‐exercise

                    

[lb/2.2 = kg]

C. Change in Body Weight (A-B)

                    

grams [kg x 1000 = g]

D. Volume of fluid consumed

                    

mL [oz x 30 = mL]

E. Sweat Loss (C+D)

                    

mL [oz x 30 = mL]

F. Exercise time 

                    

[min or hr]

G. Sweat Rate (E/F)

                    

[mL/min or mL/hr]


To convert Sweat Rate (G) back into ounces: G/30 = oz

The final number (G) is your sweat rate, or the amount of fluid that you lose through sweat during a specific amount of exercise (usually expressed per 1-hour). This should help you determine the amount of fluid you should be drinking during and after your workouts.

For workouts add 1 x SIS Hydro tab per 500ml of water required for exercise based on your calculation.

For intense workouts consider a hybrid supplement that contains both electrolytes and energy (carbohydrates) such as SIS Go Electrolyte or Beta Fuel.

The INEOS TEAM UK squad is fuelled by Science in Sport's newly launched Performance Solutions programme, a ground-breaking sports research and nutrition service designed to elevate elite teams and athletes to the next level of performance. Read more here.