Hydration in sports performance is vital for all athletes and has many benefits. Whether it’s during summer workouts, practices, or games, athletes that are properly hydrated are able to compete at optimal levels. They also will be keeping their bodies safe, healthy and injury-free. This is essential, especially, during summer training when temperatures are high and athletes are prone to sweat more.
As an athlete, it’s your responsibility to take care of your body. Drinking lots of water is one way to ensure you are doing so. Here’s why hydration in sports performance is important, signs that indicate dehydration, and some tips on how any athlete, young or old, can take care of their bodies.
The Importance of hydration for athletes
Drinking water and fluids may seem like a simple task, however, it plays a crucial role in sports performance. According to Noel Williams, a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics at Children’s Health, “staying hydrated increases energy, improves movement, recovery and agility, thermoregulation, and aids in mental clarity and activity.” All of these things help athletes improve their physical performance, reduce the risk of injuries and help athletes compete at elite levels. Here are some specific benefits that come with staying hydrated:
- Staying hydrated improves normal muscle function
- Staying hydrated helps maintain and regulate blood pressure
- Staying hydrated helps improve blood flow and circulation by delivering oxygen and essential nutrients to working muscles.
Signs that indicate dehydration
During exercise, athlete’s bodies are working at high rates, and their bodies usually produce a lot of sweat. During the summer months, athletes tend to sweat more due to the hot temperatures, and dehydration is common because of this. When athletes become dehydrated, they are putting their bodies at risk of injuries, including heat stroke during the summer. Here are some signs that indicate you or your young athlete may be dehydrated:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive thirst
Hydration tips for athletes
It may seem simple, but drinking water is the best way for anyone, including athletes, to stay hydrated. But how much water should you be drinking each day? When are appropriate times to hydrate? We got the answers!
What to drink / eat?
Ultimately, the best things athletes can drink to fuel their bodies is water, however, there are other drinks and even foods that will help keep your body hydrated. During and after exercise, it is smart for athletes to drink sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, or Body Armor. These drinks contain electrolytes that help replenish your body, however, they do also contain quite a bit of sugar. Because of how much sugar these drinks contain, it’s smart to limit sports drinks to only when you are working out or immediately after.
You can also hydrate by eating certain foods. Fruits such as grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries and cantaloupe contain quite a bit of water and will help improve your hydration.
When / how much to hydrate
It’s important that athletes are well hydrated during training, practices and games, but hydration needs to start way before these events take place. It’s not sufficient enough to drink a lot of water right before you exercise, as it takes time for your body to absorb and hydrate.
- Two to three hours before exercising, athletes should drink about 16 ounces of water. They should also drink eight ounces of water 15 minutes before exercise.
- During exercise, athletes should be drinking about four ounces every 15-20 minutes. This is equivalent to about two to three gulps.
- After exercise, athletes should strive to drink a cup of water for every pound lost. This will help you restore fluids and prepare yourself for the next day’s workouts!
Hydration in sports performance is very important. Not only does staying hydrated enhance an athlete's physical performance, but it also helps prevent injuries from occurring. By staying hydrated, you will be able to train, practice and compete at elite levels.