Sailing and Hydration – Three Key Issues

Hot weather is upon us. Any serious sports nutrition plan for mid-summer must include more than just water bottles. Three key issues are important for the competitive sailor: hydration, electrolyte balance, and glucose. Drinking water will address hydration issues, but not the negative effects of electrolyte imbalance or lack of glucose in the blood stream.


Hydration avoids energy depletion and decreased brain function. See the articles below for more information on how much fluid you need and the effects of moderate dehydration.

Related Content:

The Understated Importance of Hydration – International Sailing Academy. Points out that you need to replace 750-1000 ml hour of fluids. A 2% loss in body weight due to lack of hydration will result in a 4% decrease in muscular strength and endurance.
Changes in hydration status of elite Olympic class sailors in different climates and the effects of different fluid replacement beverages (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition). This study found that sailors rehydrating on their own schedule did not adequately replace fluids in cold conditions. Conversely, having sailors rehydrate on a fixed schedule maintained hydration in warm conditions.

Electrolyte Balance

Water bottles help, but physiologically it doesn’t stop there. Electrolyte balance maintains muscle contraction and function while avoiding fatigue, nausea or disorientation. In the second or third race in hot weather, decision making and response time can deteriorate without electrolyte replenishment.

NASA found that astronauts perform mental tasks significantly better in re-entry when they prepare by taking an electrolyte drink. Sailors are no different.

Related Content:

Water/Electrolyte Balance Table – Succeed! Sports Nutritionals. This article includes a table showing the effects of not maintaining a balance between hydration and electrolytes.

Energy Replacement (Glucose)

For big air sailing or long stretches on the water, a hydrating drink with glucose for sustained endurance is a great addition to your regatta toolbox. In the right formula, glucose is absorbed quickly into your bloodstream without waking up your digestive system. Waking up your digestive system takes blood away from your muscles and brain, robbing you of energy where you need it. The wrong formula will be energy draining.

Related Content:

How Carbohydrates Provide Energy for Exercise – . This explains the role of carbohydrates in providing energy.
Carbohydrate drinks, gels and bars: two carbs are better than one! – Peak Performance. This explains the limitations of glucose replacement.

What to Look for in a Sports Drink

SailZing was unable to find reviews of sports drinks that were clearly unbiased and science-based. However, we did find What should I look for in sports drinks? from the Human Performance Resource Center. This should help simplify your thinking when choosing a drink.

Principal Contributor to this Article

Richard Beers, a Wisconsin scow sailor, contributed the main text for this article. He has sailed X Boats, C Boats, M20, M24, M17,.M14, E, A, and Melges 24s since 1952.  He credits in-depth nutritional education for his ability to continue to be healthy and to compete. Richard developed, featuring Shaklee nutrition products, to focus on the health aspects of sailing. Thanks, Richard!

Related Content:

Top Five Finishers Share Race Course Notes at the ILYA MC Invitational 2018.  Includes a testimonial to the importance of hydration.
Stretching for Sailors: Five Insights to Make You Fitter.  Discusses the importance of hydration in recovery from a long day of sailing.

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