Why Staying Hydrated Matters
Hydration is a key component to achieving optimal performance for athletes. Water not only makes up about 60% of our bodies, but it also serves as an essential nutrient that regulates core body temperature, aids in cell function, and assists in numerous other physiological processes. A fluid loss of greater than two percent body weight (dehydration) can decrease aerobic performance and may impair cognitive performance. Therefore, staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise can help delay fatigue, maintain mental acuity, aid in body temperature regulation, and increase recovery time.
The basic fluid recommendation according to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for men and women is 3.7 liters per day and 2.7 liters per day, respectively. However, athletes should consume an even higher amount of fluid due to their increased needs. Athletes should be aware that training is not the only way to increase athletic performance and that proper fluid intake is also a vital key to success.
The overall goal of drinking water is to prevent dehydration from occurring. Here are some helpful hydration tips:
- Before Exercise: Two hours prior to exercise consume 16-20 ounces of water and 10-20 minutes prior to exercise consume 7-10 ounces of water.
- During Exercise: Every 15-20 minutes consume 6-8 ounces of water. If you are exercising for longer than one hour, consuming a sports drink with 4-8% carbohydrate will help provide energy to working muscles.
- After Exercise: For every pound lost during exercise, consume 16-24 ounces of fluid to aid in hydration maintenance.
Assessing Hydration Status
A quick and easy way to check to see if an athlete is staying hydrated is to monitor their urine color. A sign of dehydration is anything darker than pale yellow. It is also beneficial to weigh before and after intense training days and athletic events. For every pound of water lost during exercise, 16-24 ounces of fluid should be consumed to make up for those losses. Sports drinks are often recommended to help athletes stay hydrated during exercise periods lasting longer than 60 minutes. Consuming a sports drink every 15-20 minutes can help athletes replenish fluid, electrolyte, and carbohydrate (energy) losses.
Want a personalized hydration plan? Contact a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)!
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