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Hydration Strategies For The 40+ Athlete

Hydration. It's a crucial aspect of overall health and athletic performance, however it's even more important if you're a 40+ athlete.

We'll explore the benefits, potential pitfalls, strategies, and the undeniable importance of proper hydration for athletes in this age group.

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and one thing that remains constant is the need for proper hydration. From regulating body temperature to supporting joint health and cognitive function, staying hydrated is key to peak performance.

Adequate hydration helps maintain the appropriate volume of blood circulating throughout the body. Blood is composed mostly of water, and when you're well-hydrated, your blood volume remains stable.

This is crucial for maintaining blood pressure within a healthy range. Dehydration can impact the body's ability to regulate heart rate. The heart rate might increase in an attempt to compensate for reduced blood volume and maintain an adequate blood supply to tissues. This increased heart rate can put added stress on the heart. 

Without proper hydration blood flow to all muscles whether it's your quadriceps or heart muscle can be compromised making your ability to perform less than optimal.

Additionally, as we'll discuss later, hydration can become more challenging as we age, making it essential to understand the unique needs of the over 40 athlete.

Benefits of Proper Hydration

Firstly, maintaining optimal fluid balance helps prevent overheating during workouts, reducing the risk of heat-related issues.

Hydration also aids in the delivery of nutrients to muscles and helps flush out waste products, promoting efficient recovery.

Furthermore, adequate water intake supports joint lubrication, which is crucial for athletes susceptible to age-related joint issues. Hydration can even enhance cognitive function, helping athletes maintain focus during training and competitions. 

This is why I am a huge fan of starting every day no matter how chill or crazy you expect it to be, with 16-24 ounces of water.  Squeezing in a lemon, lime, a little sea salt is even better.

Hydration Challenges and Pitfalls

While the benefits are clear, there are challenges to staying hydrated, especially for those over 40. Our bodies naturally lose water more rapidly with age, and the sensation of thirst might not be as strong. 

This can be related to changes in a couple of hormones - aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone which play a role in fluid balance and urine production. 

Just like estrogen, testosterone and insulin sensitivity decreases with age even if you have sufficient amounts circulating, the same can happen with aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone.  

If that wasn’t enough, the kidneys ability to concentrate urine often wanes with each passing decade. One of the triggers for thirst is the level of concentrated urine, without this trigger, the sensation of thirst doesn’t arrive. I see this all the time, especially in my 60 plus patient population where they say they are never thirsty and we check their urine and it looks and smells like they have been living off mountain dew. 

This can lead to dehydration going unnoticed, affecting performance and recovery, as well as cognition and infection risk. Additionally, some athletes might rely on beverages like energy drinks or excessive caffeine, which can lead to dehydration due to their diuretic effects.

If that was not enough, often people are retiring, switching careers as their children move out of the home and the previous routine they had which included drinking water at particular intervals gets forgotten. 

It's important to be mindful of these challenges and adopt a proactive approach to hydration.

Strategies for Optimal Hydration

Now, let's discuss strategies to ensure optimal hydration.

Firstly, listen to your body and don't rely solely on thirst as an indicator. Set a hydration schedule during the day and aim to consume water at regular intervals.

Aim to get ½ half your body weight in ounces of fluid per day. Remember that hydration isn't just about water—foods rich in water content, such as fruits and vegetables, even meat also contribute to your fluid intake. 

My general rule is to drink 1/3 your body weight in ounces of water per day and then make up the rest via whole foods eating. 

The more ultra processed, fast food you consume and even the more medications you are on, the more actual water you will want to consume.

During workouts, consider sipping water throughout, rather than relying on sporadic large gulps.

Tailoring Hydration to Your Activity

Different sports and activities have varying hydration needs. Endurance athletes might need to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat, while those engaging in high-intensity training should focus on staying adequately hydrated to support muscle function. It's essential to adjust your hydration strategy based on the type and duration of your activity.

Questions I often get asked:

Can I rely on sports drinks for hydration?

Answer: While sports drinks can provide electrolytes and energy, they often contain added sugars. It's better to prioritize water and consider sports drinks for intense, prolonged activities.

Are there any signs of dehydration I should watch out for?

Answer: Absolutely! Watch for symptoms like dark yellow urine, fatigue, loss of skin laxity, dizziness, and dry mouth. These are signs that your body needs more fluids.  Remember if you took a supplement with B vitamins in it, it may take 4-8 hours to clear the yellowing of your urine caused by the B vitamin supplementation.

Proper hydration is a foundational pillar of your athletic journey. Thinking and acting ahead when it comes to hydration can enhance your performance, recovery, and overall well-being. 


How do you stay hydrated? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

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