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Hydration Tips for Soliders

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Staying hydrated can be a challenge for military personnel who often deal with hot, dry conditions over long periods. Factor in long-sleeved, layered uniforms and heavy rucksacks, and it’s tough to fend off dehydration. But with proper planning, it’s possible not only to avoid dehydration but also to improve performance by staying adequately hydrated, says Bob Calvin, a performance nutritionist at EXOS, who has worked extensively with the military. Here are four key strategies to do just that.

1. Meet your foundational hydration needs.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that men consume 3.7 liters of fluid per day. These should be calorie-free. Sports drinks are designed for intense training or deployment, not for supporting foundational hydration. Drink ½ to 1 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. This should be made up of water, green tea, and other naturally calorie-free beverages. Jumpstart your hydration by beginning your day with 16 ounces of water as soon as you wake. “Dehydration translates into decreased performance,” writes EXOS founder Mark Verstegen in his new book Every Day is Game Day: A Proven System to Win All Day, Every Day. “A deficit of just half a liter of water can cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and even slight dehydration can negatively affect mood. By drinking the proper amount of water every day, you could accomplish 25 percent more.”

2. Stay hydrated during activity.

Losing just two percent of your body weight due to fluid loss decreases performance. If you're a heavy, salty sweater or are training in an extreme environment, it's important to pay attention to the sodium content of your beverage. Cramping has been linked to electrolyte loss, especially sodium loss. Choose a hydrating beverage that has at least 200 milligrams of sodium per 8 ounces to maximize electrolyte replacement. The amount of fluid lost (measured as a loss of body weight over the course of your session) is an indicator as to your risk of a decrease in performance and eventually heat illness. The more weight you lose, the more serious the impact to performance and health. Before training (1-2 hours before), drink 17-20 ounces. Immediately before training, drink 7-10 ounces. During training (every 10-15 minutes), drink 7-10 ounces. Post-training, drink 20 ounces for every pound lost. “Get in the habit of weighing yourself before and after activity,” Calvin says. “If you know how much you weigh and how much you’ve consumed, it’s easy to estimate your sweat rate.”

3. Carb up.

When your training level warrants the consumption of a sports drink for performance benefits, you’ll want to consume the equivalent of 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour. This will ensure that you're properly fueled and feeling great during your session. Balance the rest of your hydration needs with water. “This is something that needs to be addressed any time you’re training for over an hour in an extreme environment,” Calvin says. “You can get this in a hydration product or through gels, bananas, or bars. A lot of times that comes down to personal preference from a digestive standpoint.”

4. Stay ahead of the game.

You would never embark on a long drive with a low gas tank, especially if you didn't know where the next fueling station would appear. That’s why it’s important to always monitor your hydration. Drinking can be a bit of an afterthought, with food and fueling front and center, but hydration should be something that you're proactive with — and give equal attention. If you’re unsure of your hydration level, take a look at your urine. If it’s a clear or pale lemonade color, you’re hydrated. If it’s a darker lemonade to apple juice color, you’re dehydrated. And if it’s dark and cloudy, you’re severely dehydrated and should seek medical attention.

Looking to gain more knowledge on how to improve your performance as a tactical athlete? Check out our Tactical Education courses offered at EXOS facilities and on-site to your unit.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Hydration, Beverages, Military