Proper Hydration Proper hydration is helpful for achieving maximum performance in athletes of all levels. Adequate fluid intake for athletes is essential to comfort, performance and safety. Proper hydration occurs throughout each day rather than just prior to or immediately following athletic training or competition. Athletes benefit from consistency and moderation in their fluid intake. Attempting to hydrate during a short window can cause complications that adversely affect and athlete’s performance.
Adequate Fluid Intake for Athletes
Because there is wide variability in sweat rates, losses and hydration levels of individuals, it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids athletes should consume.
Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences. There are, however, two simple methods of estimating adequate hydration:
1. Monitoring urine volume output and color. A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.
2. Weighing yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need. It is important to weigh yourself without clothing before and after a workout to determine accurate sweat rates.
• According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, male athletes should average approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. The best guideline for whether an athlete is sufficiently hydrated is simply to satisfy one’s thirst. Dehydration should be avoided at all costs. Athletes need to stay hydrated for optimal performance. Studies have found that a loss of two or more percent of one’s body weight due to sweating is linked to a drop in blood volume. When this occurs, the heart works harder to move blood through the bloodstream. Dehydration not only hampers performance but also increases the risk of heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or potentially deadly heat stroke. Too much of a good thing can be extremely dangerous. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood drops dangerously low. Over hydration is the primary cause of hyponatremia and can result in seizure, coma and death. The best way to prevent dehydration and hyponatremia is to learn the right way to hydrate. Use the following tips to create your own hydration game plan:
• Drink to Stay Hydrated, Don’t Over drink-Your fluid replacement plan should be based on your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after a one-hour workout. It’s important to weigh yourself before and after the workout (without clothing) and measure the amount you drink during the workout. For instance, if you lost 1 1/2 pounds (24 oz. based on 16 oz. per pound) and your had drank 12 ounces during the workout, you should try to drink 36 ounces (24 + 12) each hour during a similar-intensity workout. A good rule of thumb would be 9 ounces every 15 minutes.
• Maintain a Salty Diet-Make certain you replace all salt lost during a workout or competition. Pretzels are a great snack for an athlete to replace salt.
• Favor Sports Drinks-Sports drinks are better than water in terms of providing electrolyte replacement as well as providing carbohydrate energy, which will fuel your active muscles. Remember, don’t over drink ANY fluid.
• Recognize Warning Signs-Signs of dehydration are headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, irritability, vomiting, or abnormal chills. Signs of hyponatremia are rapid weight gain, confusion, dizziness, nausea, severe fatigue, lack of coordination, swollen hands and feet, throbbing headache, apathy, cramping, bloated stomach, and seizures. If an athlete displays any of these symptoms, SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION!