Hydration starts (and ultimately ends) with thermoregulation, a natural process that allows your body to maintain its core internal temperature, which keeps the body cool when functioning efficiently. Body temperature regulation can be achieved by proper hydration, but before we dig any further, let’s remind ourselves how our body naturally keeps us cool. There are four main processes or methods our bodies use to run smoothly:
- Evaporation: The release of heat through sweat, by converting water into gas.
- Radiation: The transfer of heat from object to object through infrared waves (sunlight).
- Convection: The release of heat through the movement of air or water, such as specialized fabrics with cooling technology.
- Conduction: The release of heat through physical contact.
When your body is cool, you put less stress on your stomach, which can alleviate GI distress, decrease the onset of muscle cramps, and increase your exercise performance. Within your WHOOP data, you may notice a higher strain on especially hot days, even if you’re going about your normal diet and workout routine. This is to be expected, as your body is requiring more cardiovascular exertion to achieve the same performance results. It's why runners, for instance, use conversion charts to adjust for a slower pace in higher temperatures.
How do you mitigate strain in the heat? The key process in the summer months is evaporation. I know, you’re probably thinking how can I sweat more to keep me cool via evaporation. Well, it’s not all about sweating more, it’s about having a healthy method of cooling your body down, which can be achieved via proper hydration. When exercising in the summer months, you’re putting more stress on your body and your core temperature will be slightly higher than when training and racing in cooler months. Therefore, if you focus on drinking early and often when exercising, you’ll mitigate the stress you’re putting on your body, and will allow your body to properly cool via hydration.
One important note--water alone may not always cut it. Water provides fluid but it doesn't have everything your body wants when it's under stress. Your hydration needs both carbohydrates and electrolytes during high stress environments and/or longer exercises (90+ min) to help hydrate efficiently.
And as you know, staying hydrated during the workout alone won’t be enough. Going into a workout well hydrated goes a long way. It delays the onset of dehydration (which naturally occurs during exercise) and helps you perform better. Topping off your electrolyte stores the night before (or at least 1-2 hours before) exercise will help ensure you have enough electrolytes to move fluids through your body.