Hey CrossFit Recovery Warriors!

Sweat angels, amirite?

It feels like a right of passage in any CrossFit gym after crushing your WOD and pushing the intensity to the max, to flop back and bask in the glory of your sweat-soaked victory.

But there is one crucial element inside that sweat angel that you can’t overlook if you want to recover and do it all over again the next day.

I’m talking about HYDRATION! That’s right, proper hydration is the key to unlocking your body’s full recovery potential and ensuring you’re ready to tackle the next CrossFit challenge head-on.

Grab your water bottle and join me as I dive into the importance of hydration for CrossFit athletes and uncover tips for staying properly hydrated to maximize your performance and recovery.

Why is Hydration important?

Let’s get a little nerdy to start. Proper hydration is essential for optimal muscle cell function, as it maintains the delicate balance of electrolytes needed for muscle contraction, relaxation, and overall performance. When you’re adequately hydrated, your body can effectively regulate the concentration of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium inside and outside of muscle cells.

Sodium, in particular, plays a critical role in maintaining fluid balance and facilitating the transmission of nerve impulses that control muscle contractions. Magnesium is another key player, involved in energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and muscle relaxation.

NOTE: If you want to geek out even more and learn all about the role electrolytes play in proper hydration, I recommend checking out our friends over at LMNT who make THE BEST (in my opinion) electrolyte drink on the market. They have TONS of science to back up their claims too so your inner nerd can quench its thirst as well!

What is Dehydration and How Does it Affect Performance?

Dehydration is defined as a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body. The body loses water through sweat, respiration, waste, and urine.

CAUTION: Natural diuretics like caffeine and alcohol make us lose extra water through urine!

Impacts from dehydration can range from trivial to severe, depending on the magnitude of water lost. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, constipation, reduced blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and rapid heartbeat.

As a CrossFit athlete and coach, it’s worth exploring the “why” behind that rapid heartbeat thing. When you’re dehydrated, your blood volume decreases. Lower blood volume means the heart doesn’t squeeze as hard when pumping blood. That may seem like a good thing, but it really means the heart’s “preload” (pre-contraction force) and its contraction are weaker, leading to less efficient transport of oxygen to the body per heartbeat. To compensate for these weaker heartbeats, the heart must beat faster so the dehydrated athlete can get precious oxygen and other nutrients to their tissues.

On the flip side, overhydration, or hyponatremia, can occur when you drink too much water, diluting the concentration of sodium in your blood. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, confusion, headaches, and in severe cases, seizures and coma. The body is an amazing thing; you should probably listen to it – it’s often trying to tell you how to strike the right balance through basic hydration cues.

Ok, I’m Thirsty…but Now What?

Here are a few tips on how and when to drink up to help both your performance and recovery, starting with the golden rule: 

  • Golden Rule: drink water (with electrolytes if possible) to quench your thirst and NOT beyond!
  • Electrolyte Replacement: During intense exercise, especially in hot conditions, replenish lost electrolytes to maintain proper hydration and prevent muscle cramps.
  • Clear and Copious: Keep an eye on the color and amount of your urine – pale yellow to clear is a good indication of proper hydration, while dark yellow may signal dehydration.
  • Before, During, and After Workouts: Start hydrating well before your workout, sip water during your session, and continue to drink fluids afterward to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Morning Routine: Start your day off right by drinking a glass of water, again with electrolytes if possible, as soon as you wake up to replenish fluids lost overnight and kick-start your hydration for the day.

By staying properly hydrated and replenishing lost electrolytes through hydration and nutrition, you can ensure that your muscle cells have the essential nutrients they need to function optimally, allowing you to perform at your best in the box and beyond. Additionally, it acts as the unsung hero of CrossFit recovery, adding your body’s ability to bounce back stronger and faster after each grueling workout. 

So raise your water bottle high, drink up, and let hydration flow through you in your quest for CrossFit greatness!

Cheers to that,

Coach Matt