Hydration for Athletes


A runner in a race drinks water while running.

Athletic performance can be reduced by dehydration. How much hydration is enough in athletics and elite sports?

Eight million high school students play organized sports and 480,000 play in college [1]. Annual participants in marathons have grown in the U.S. from 25,000 in 1976 to 509,000 in 1000 events nationwide in 2015 [2]. Add to that all the adult league sports, fitness gyms, triathlons and ultra endurance events and someone you know is an athlete. Hydration is often overlooked, but an important part of keeping healthy.

Hydration for a High-Performance Body

Drinking water is essential for good hydration and for performance at the top of your abilities.  It helps the body regulate temperature via sweat, keeps your cardiovascular system running efficiently and lubricates joints [3].

When an athlete becomes dehydrated or enters a physical performance event under hydrated the body suffers.  Dehydration stresses the cardiovascular system, decreasing endurance, strength and power [4].  And importantly, the potential to overheat (hyperthermia) goes up due to lack of sweat and decreased circulation [4]. We have all heard the news stories about high school football athletes getting heat stroke on the field.  

Factors Affecting Dehydration

Warm environments and high intensity exercise can increase the rate of dehydration.  Also, the type of sport, swimming vs running and duration can affect the rate of dehydration. A 90 minute soccer game may require a different hydration strategy than a marathon.  Personal characteristics can affect hydration as well, for example, a person who sweats more will have to actively replace more fluids.

Hydration Strategies for Athletes

Drinking-to-Thirst

Drinking to Thirst is a common hydration strategy for many people.  This approach follows the body’s signal to drink when thirsty.  This may be adequate for recreational sports, however, it is likely inadequate for many high intensity or high endurance events such as long distance races, triathlons or competitive games sports [4].  Thirst often is not apparent until 1 -2 % body weight loss, which could be too late to avoid a performance dip in some athletes [4].

Studies find the majority of high school elite athletes arrive for their event modestly dehydrated and do not necessarily recover during the event, whether indoor or outdoor  [5].  Clearly, these athletes need a more effective hydration strategy  for top performance. An effective hydration strategy should begin well before the actual event or training [5].

Creating a Drinking Plan

Ultra athletes and performance athletes should consider creating a drinking plan based on personalized data about the intensity and duration of their exercise [5].  In addition, elite athletes should consume not only fluids, but other micronutrients including electrolytes.

So, what’s the plan? Many sport drinks with taste have been shown to aid in hydration [6].  But be careful,  sports drinks can be high in sugar or highly acidic.  This is where H2PRO™ can be a great choice since it is micronutrient balanced, sugar-free, tasty and not acidic!

Measuring your body weight water loss during training may help to create some baseline data to follow.  Start by measuring your weight in the well hydrated state before exercise and then again after your event or exercise routine.  Elite athletes performing under intense conditions and long duration times should replace every pound of body weight lost with 16-24 ounces of fluid [3].  

For recreational and other sporting endeavors, hydrate prior to exercise, and following exercise as recommended below [3]:

  • 2 Hours prior: 17 – 20 oz
  • 30 mins prior: 8 oz
  • Every 10-20 min during: 7-10 oz
  • Post Exercise: At least 8 oz

Important Signs of Dehydration and Hydration

Dehydration symptoms of  concern include dizziness, nausea, muscle cramping, lack of sweat and rapid heartbeat.  If these symptoms occur, stop the activity and begin rehydrating slowly and regularly.

Checking your general hydration is easy. When hydrated, urine should be pale in color, when dehydrated urine will become dark colored.  If you are not urinating, that may also indicate dehydration.  Grab a glass of water, add some H2PRO™ and Love Your Guts!

#LoveYourGuts, hydrate.

 

Citations

1- NCAA, http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-college-athletics

2- Running USA, http://www.runningusa.org/marathon-report-2016

3- FamilyDoctor.org, The Importance of Good Hydration. American Academy of Family Physicians.

https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration/ accessed 4/14/2017

4- Armstrong, Lawrence et al. (2016) COUNTERVIEW: Is Drinking to Thirst Adequate to Appropriately Maintain Hydration Status During Prolonged Endurance Exercise? No. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. 27 (2): 195-198.

5- Giannis, Arnaoutis et al. (2015) Fluid Balance During Training in Elite Young Athletes of Different Sports. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  29(12) 3447- 3452.

6- Casa, Douglas et al. (2015) Chapter 11, Hydration for High Level Athletes. In Nutrition for Elite Athletes Rawson and Volpe, editors. p249-297.

 

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