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Sports Performance: Staying Hydrated

Athlete drinking water.

Hydration is important for all athletes. This is true especially during the summer months. The importance of getting enough fluids before and after competition cannot be overstressed.

Hydrating helps regulate body temperature and lubricate joints. It also helps transport nutrients through the body and waste out. The longer and more intensely you play, the more important it is to drink the right kind and amount of fluids.

A player who becomes dehydrated during competition or training is at risk for cramps, dizziness, fatigue and other types of heat illness, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat illness is 100% preventable.

How much fluid should you drink?

Many factors determine how much fluid you should drink. These include how long and intensely you exercise, as well as weather conditions and others. Use these simple methods to estimate adequate hydration.

  • Monitor the volume and color of your urine. Light-colored urine probably means you are hydrated; dark urine probably means you are dehydrated.
  • Weigh yourself before and after your activity. Any weight loss during activity is generally from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses.

Hydration guidelines

It's difficult to make specific fluid recommendations because athletes vary in size, metabolism and sport. Most athletes can use these guidelines as a starting point and modify their individual needs accordingly.

Before exercise (volume varies with age)

  • Drink about 4-16 oz. of water 1-2 hours before exercise.
  • Drink 8-12 oz. of water 10-15 minutes before exercise.

During exercise (volume varies with age)

  • Drink about 5-10 oz. of water every 10-15 minutes.
  • If exercising longer than 60 minutes, drink 5-10 oz. of sports drink (no more than 8% carbohydrate) every 15-30 minutes.

After exercise

  • Weigh yourself before and after event and replace fluid losses.
  • Drink 20-24 oz. of water for 1 pound lost within 2 hours after the event.

Tips on what to drink

  • The best after-exercise drinks are water, noncaffeinated sports drinks and chocolate milk.
  • Choose sports drinks wisely, as they are often high in sugar (calories) and may be high in sodium.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • Fluids supplying 60-100 calories per 8 oz. help provide the calories needed for continuous performance.
  • Avoid energy drinks, which are not the same as sports drinks, during competition/practice. Energy drinks contain larger amounts of ingredients your body doesn't need. These include caffeine and other stimulants, such as guarana, as well as additives like taurine. Most of these drinks also contain a high amount of sugar. They can cause dehydration, nervousness/jitteriness, cramps, seizures and cardiovascular abnormalities.

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