Open Water Swim: Hydration Guidelines

One of the most ignored nutrient of all, is Water. Apart from the numerous benefits that water has to offer, there are a few specific roles that water plays especially during an open water swim. The typical guidelines for hydration during training in a pool suggest anywhere between 500-750 ml of fluids/ hour of intense training. Although these requirements may be lesser in comparison to cyclists or runners, they are based on the fact that swimmers do sweat while in water.

‘Ockhi’ Effect

With the ‘Ockhi’ cyclone creating all the stir and clearing our oceans, it seems to be the apt time to touch the waters. The climate change that it caused is just about settling down, however the temperatures continue to drop. The water temperatures are expected to be equally cold and hydration especially now becomes very much important.


Most of us have learnt about dehydration in extreme heat and humidity conditions, but you will be surprised to know, that exposure to cold temperatures can drastically drop core body temperature. This can trigger shivering and can compromise functioning of all major organs especially the nervous system and the heart. If the body is also dehydrated, there is lesser fluid in the system to warm all organs. The blood supply is reduced especially towards the extremities and the hand and feet start feeling numb! This impairs motion and swimmers may find highly difficult to swim at a particular pace.

Pre-event Hydration

Hydration is therefore of utmost importance. Hyper-hydration pre-event in order to prevent dehydration especially for races 5 Km and above is one of the most common practices. However, this can make you feel heavy and sluggish.
A general guide is:

  • 2 hour pre-event: 1-1.5 Liters of fluid
  • 1 hour pre-event: 0.5 Liter of fluid
  • 15-20 min pre-event: 150-250 ml of fluid

A drink with electrolytes is often the cherry on cake, but simple diluted fruit juices can equally help meeting the electrolyte demands.

How about gulping some sea water to combat dehydration?

This is absolutely a bad idea. Gulping a lot of salty sea water can in fact dehydrate you faster than you can imagine. It is due to a science concept we learnt in school, called osmosis! When there is a lot of salt outside than inside our blood, the water from our blood and a few other extra-cellular spaces seems to shift outside of our body primarily through the skin. This triggers dehydration and further aggravation of hypothermia.

Swimmers, make sure you hydrate enough before your race and also perform adequate warm up before entering the ocean!

All the best!

Author: Mihira A R Khopkar

B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition


Copyright @ 2017 SwimIndia

SwimIndia does not guarantee results of any sort, before making any changes to your diet plans, please consult an expert.

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