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Boisson isotonique triathlon

Isotonic or hypotonic drink: Endurance, performance and recovery

Endurance, hydration and performance: Effort drink

Hydration is an important point not to be overlooked in endurance athletes. It is used to compensate for water and electrolyte losses. Filling these losses with effective hydration will maximize performance since dehydration is one of the main factors responsible for poor performance: discomfort, muscle injuries, cramps, tendonitis...

In this article, we are going to explain to you, why and how to hydrate yourself before, during and after the effort to give you the chances of succeeding in your challenge in the best conditions.

Did you know that a loss of 2% of weight (essentially due to water loss) during exercise reduces the physical abilities of an athlete by 20% ?

It is therefore essential to plan your hydration to optimize your sports performance!

Why drink water rich in electrolytes?

Good hydration helps maintain an ideal body temperature but it is also essential to make up for the losses of nutrients and mineral salts linked in particular to perspiration . In addition, sufficient hydration will make it possible to maximize the supply of carbohydrates (therefore energy) to the body during exercise.

Indeed, the muscle uses as essential fuel glucose , brought directly by the food.

But, during a long-term effort, the body will also draw on its reserves: we will then use glycogen, considered as the energy reserve of the athlete. Present in the liver and the muscles, glycogen will be able to quickly release glucose in the blood and provide energy to the muscles during physical effort.

To ensure good performance, it is necessary to build up sufficient stores of glycogen. This starts with food : It is preferable to consume carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (whole cereals, lentils, basmati rice, etc.) and fibers (vegetables, fruits) which will optimize the storage of glycogen.

But, the constitution of an optimal stock of glycogen also passes through hydration. Indeed, to store 1 g of glycogen you need 3 g of water , hence the importance of good hydration .

The role of electrolytes?

Electrolytes are mineral salts that include: sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium .

They are essential for proper cell function and must be replaced when they are eliminated, especially during exercise (through perspiration or urine). It is therefore necessary to drink a drink enriched with electrolytes .

This will improve the absorption of water and carbohydrates in the intestine. This water absorption promotes rehydration and helps to better preserve the ingested liquid.

This is because electrolytes carry electrical charge and play an essential role in maintaining the water balance inside and outside of cells so that muscles and organs can continue to function well, allowing them to ensure proper hydration.


Starting physical activity with maximum water reserves will allow you to avoid or at least delay dehydration. It will therefore be very important to stay well hydrated during (at least) the whole week preceding the competition (with a minimum of 2L of water per day spread over the day).

A simple way to estimate hydration is to monitor urine color . Urine that is too dark most often means insufficient hydration, while lighter urine is an indication of a good level of hydration.

Training is also an opportunity to measure your water needs. For example, you can weigh yourself before and after a session. The difference in weight then indicates the water loss generated by the effort.

In theory, it is between 0.6-0.8 L per hour. It will therefore be up to you to adjust your hydration according to your own water losses , for example, if you calculate a loss of 500g for a certain intensity and duration, this will allow you to assess that you need to drink at least 500ml of drink for the same effort and duration.

For an endurance effort, it is advisable to consume a drink containing electrolytes which will make it possible to compensate for the losses in carbohydrates, mineral salts and electrolytes.

Tip: Take advantage of your training before your competition to test your drink and find the one that suits you.


It is important to remember that thirst is felt when dehydration is already well underway. It is recommended to drink small amounts often, rather than a large amount once in a while. This will ensure continuous hydration throughout the effort and avoid dehydration.

An intake of approximately 100 to 200 ml every 15 to 20 minutes is recommended. There is no point in drinking too much, because beyond 750 ml/h the stomach can no longer assimilate the water ingested.

You should also avoid drinking water that is too cold (<10°C) which can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

On very long events, it is also recommended to add fructose and glucose .

You can also increase energy intake by taking a drink containing amino acids (BCAA) . This allows the use of other absorption and transformation pathways because the carbohydrate pathways can end up being saturated.

Remember to have a water bottle on you throughout the effort. For a 500ml bottle add two lozenges for optimal hydration!

Warning : Carbonated drinks are not recommended because they can cause bloating as well as gastric and intestinal discomfort.


In the first minutes after exercise, it is important to rehydrate quickly .

A quantity of 0.4 L in half an hour drunk in small sips or twice is more than enough.

Once the feeling of thirst has passed, one can begin to ingest an electrolyte drink or a solid food to replenish the stores of glycogen and electrolytes (mineral salts).

Warning: Beer, tea and coffee are not recommended because they are diuretics which would cause a loss of water greater than the intake (to be avoided during the rehydration phase).

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