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Hydration for the Triathlete
By Bob Seebohar

Water is one of the most important nutrients in any well-balanced eating plan. Drinking too little water or losing too much through sweating can inhibit your ability to exercise to your potential.

Not only does water keep our bodies hydrated, it also acts in the blood as a transport mechanism, eliminates metabolic waste products in urine, dissipates heat through sweat, helps to digest food and lubricates joints and cushions organs. So you see, water is a much needed and essential nutrient which is crucial to our survival and athletic performance.

Many have heard the saying, “ drink 6-8 glasses of water per day.” Well this is true, but for sedentary persons. As triathletes, we need from 12-16 glasses of water per day. Most of the time it is very easy to consume this much (during training) but often times you may feel as if that is an impossible number. No need to worry. Remember, foods also have water in the m (fruits and vegetables especially) and so do different drink products. Be careful though, caffeinated beverages have dehydrating effect so for you heavy coffee and soda drinkers, beware. A good rule of thumb is to consume twice as much water as you did in the caffeineated beverage to make up fo the fluid loss. Pure, refreshing water (12-16 glasses per day) is always the best choice since we, as athletes, are in training most times of the year.

Thirst, as defined by a conscious awareness of the desire for water and other fluids, usually controls water intake. The sensation of thirst is triggered by abnormally highly concentrated body fluids. When you sweat, you lose significant amounts of water from your blood. The remaining blood becomes more concentrated and had, for example, an abnormally high sodium level. This triggers the thirst mechanism and increases your desire to drink. To quench your thirst, you must replace the water losses and brink the blood back to its normal concentration.

Having said this, you should not trust your thirst mechansism. By this I mean, when you feel thirsty, you are probably already partially dehydrated and it takes much longer to rehydrate yourself than it does to maintain your hydrated state. Thirst can be blunted by exercise or overriddn by the mind. You will voluntarily only replace 2/3 of your sweat losses. Carry a water bottle with you during the day to ensure you are drinking adequate amounts. Be careful to carrying to big of a water bottle though. Some people can do it but most people who carry larger than a bike size water bottle do not drink it all because it sits and gets warm. This will just deter from your hydrated state. Take frequent breaks to fill up your water bottle and use the restroom. If you are following the above guidelines, you should be visiting the restroom quite frequently throughout the day!

One last way to determine if you are staing hydrated is by the amount and color of your urine. As I said previously, you should be visiting the restroom frequently throughout the day. But what is more important, is that you are excreting a fair amount of clear or pale yellow urine.

The bottom line is to drink enough to quench your thirst, plus a little more.

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Handbook, 1997
Sporst Nutrition, 1999, American Dietetic Association

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS is the Performance Director at the Colorado Center for Altitude Training and Performance (ATP Center) in Evergreen, Colorado.  The ATP Center provides training, coaching, physiological testing and nutrition services for all ages, types and abilities of endurance athletes.

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS has been a USA Triathlon certified coach since 1999 and is one of the first USA Triathlon Certified Level III Elite Coaches in the United States. He has worked with beginners to Olympians and currently specializes in working with advanced to elite athletes. Bob was on the Performance Coaching team for Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon Bronze medalist, as he served as her strength coach and sport dietitian during her journey to becoming the first United States athlete to medal in Olympic Triathlon. 

He blends his extensive education with his experience as an athlete, exercise physiologist, sports dietitian and coach to 

Bob has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a concentration in Wellness Program Management, a Master's degree in Health and Exercise Science and a second Master's degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. 

Bob is also the author of the book
Nutritional Periodization for the Endurance Athlete 

Bob can be contacted at 



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