Do you consider the importance of hydration when your in the arena, or out on the trail? Not just for your horse, but for yourself too. If you don't, you really should.
The following is written by Nicola Jaffrey. Nicola is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and the owner of Embody Nutrition Consulting and I've asked her to help us with understanding how, and why hydration is important to us as horse women.
Read on ..
One of the most common nutrition concerns for equestrian athletes, particularly when training out in the heat, is hydration. How many of you consider your water intake to be a top priority when preparing to go out on the horse? If you don’t, I hope that I can convince you otherwise in the next few paragraphs!
What are the effects of dehydration?
Around 70% of your body is made up of water, so as you can imagine, you may not be able to function at your best when you’re not well hydrated! A lack of water intake throughout the day can result in a number of negative health effects including headaches, brain fog and a general lack of energy. These are obviously not ideal for anyone to experience, let alone those of you who have to manage work and family life, as well as your training. Getting on top of your day to day hydration will give you a solid foundation to work from, but staying hydrated around your riding sessions may take a little more planning and preparation to get right. When you are out riding, particularly in the heat, there are a number of ways that dehydration can negatively impact your performance in training. Some of these include:
Impaired skill, concentration and decision making
Increased perceived exhaustion meaning your training feels harder
Increased risk of heat illness, due to difficulty regulating your body temp
Increased risk of gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
How do you know if you are dehydrated?
One of the best ways to see if you body is well hydrated is to monitor the colour of your urine. You should be aiming for a pale yellow colour most of the time (first thing in the morning will always be a little darker). If your urine is clear, you can back off the water a little but if it is dark yellow or brown, drinking a glass of water should be your top priority!
How do you stay hydrated while riding?
First, make sure you are hydrating well every day, outside of your training. I’m sure you’ve heard that 2 litres of water is what’s recommended each day. This may be pretty close for most people but the amount you need will be individual to you. Check your urine to monitor throughout the day. Next up, think ahead to your upcoming ride:
For short duration rides (45-60 minutes), drinking water before and immediately afterwards will be sufficient.
For longer duration rides (1-2 hours), particularly if it is hot, you will need to be able to top up with water throughout your ride. This could mean carrying a water bottle with you or it may mean having to stop for some breaks throughout and having a drink.
If these longer sessions are of a high intensity, you may need to consider consuming some electrolytes or sports drink throughout the session to top up your energy as well as replenish some of the minerals that are lost in your sweat (mostly sodium).
For day long rides, hydration and other cooling strategies are paramount. Ensuring that you either carry a water bottle with you (making sure you can access it!) or bringing along a hydration pack will mean that you can keep drinking throughout the day at regular intervals.
Other strategies to ensure effective cooling in the heat include wearing a light coloured, long sleeve shirt made out of natural fabrics (eg. Cotton), which will allow more ventilation while riding. Cooling towels and packs would also be good options to take along for trail rides, to use in the event that someone was feeling unwell due to the heat.
Ultimately, preventing or minimizing dehydration as much as possible is a much better strategy than managing the negative effects of it. So think ahead, get into a routine of drinking water regularly each day and plan your hydration strategy for your training. Your body will thank you for it!
Nicola Jaffrey – Embody Nutrition Consulting
Nicola is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and the owner of Embody Nutrition Consulting. For the last 7 years she has been helping active people to live and perform at their best using evidence based and practical nutrition strategies. Nicola is passionate about helping people to change their behaviour and habits around nutrition by breaking down the science, providing personalised advice and offering support and accountability along the way.
You can find out more about Nicola via the links below: