As a jockey, your body is comprised of up to 70% water. We need to drink roughly 2 litres of water daily to stay hydrated. Thirst sets in around 2-3% dehydration, whilst mental performance is affected even at 1% dehydration.
Water helps lubricate your joints to keep them flexible, it protects and acts as a shock absorber for the brain in falls and reduces trauma, it regulates body temperature and is needed by the brain to function properly. You can see why you don’t want to be dehydrated for any length of time.
As the mind doesn’t work when dehydrated, how can you make the right decision in a split second during a hot race?
How do you know when you are dehydrated? You feel tired or weak, have cramps, can’t concentrate, have a dry mouth, and suffer from headaches. It is time to act! You lose a lot of water during riding/working or racing. Your body uses water for all its functions, but you also breathe, sweat and urinate it out.
Your body does not sweat out just water, it also losing minerals, especially electrolytes which have to be replaced to ensure your body is performing as needed. You can afford a drink of water after weighing in and racing without fear of putting it on as weight. Your body will put it to good use and most likely sweat most of it out immediately. That bit of extra hydration could be all you need to make the right decision to win.
After a day’s racing you need to rehydrate immediately to avoid long term damage. Drink 500ml water straight after the last race. I recommend taking an isotonic drink with electrolytes after the races, as electrolytes help your body take up water and use it for essential bodily functions much faster. Drink another 500ml at dinnertime and ideally another 500ml before bedtime unless that keeps you up at night.
The best value way of buying electrolyte sports drinks is in powdered form. Good quality powder will contain the four electrolytes potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, as well as a slow releasing carbohydrate (usually maltodextrin). It should not contain artificial flavours or preservatives. Your local health food store should have good quality products in stock.
Remember how much weight you lost in the sauna before racing. For every pound of weight you lost you should drink 1 ½ pints of water to rehydrate. If you have stomach pains after a day’s racing or after hard work, drink water with electrolytes or even use a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water to reduce the pains.
If you are experiencing muscle cramps, you are most likely dehydrated and lacking magnesium, so take an electrolyte drink followed by a pint of water. If you are sweating during work (mucking out, riding, etc.) aim to drink 250ml every 15 minutes but 500ml every hour at least. Drink plain water. Use electrolytes for sustained exercise, e.g. on race day or particularly hot/long days.
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