Hydration for Tactical Athletes

The NSCA defines Firefighters, Military Personnel, and Police as Tactical Athletes.  In their Tactical Strength and Conditioning Journal, a recent article examined the hydration needs of these public servants.  The study suggests that you might need more electrolytes.

They found that during hard job training or responses in a harsh environment, your body can use up to 5,000 milligrams of sodium.  It’s safe to estimate that you’ll get about 3,000 milligrams from a normal diet with 3 meals per day.  On most days, that’s more than enough.  You can see, though, that 3,000 is not enough to replenish the full 5,000 that you’ll lose in training.  On training days, you should be supplementing that sodium intake with an additional 2,000 milligrams through sports drinks.  The average sports drink product has about 1,000 milligrams of sodium, so that would be two full bottles.

Drinking too much water, without enough electrolytes, can lead to illness.  So, to hydrate safely and effectively, try this:

  • Supplement your electrolyte intake with sports drinks on hard training days.
  • Drink about 75% of the water you lose during training.  Then drink more later, until you’ve consumed more than you lost.
  • Carbohydrates will help your body retain more water as you re-hydrate.
  • Don’t gorge yourself on water.  You can only absorb about one liter per hour, anyway.
  • It might also help to know how much electrolytes to consume at baseline, or on the days you don’t train.  The chart below is a good guide.






Hydration and Electrolyte Considerations for the Tactical Athlete.