The Importance of Hydration
Hydration impacts practically every aspect of athletic performance. Water regulates body temperature, enhances movement, regulates blood pressure, increases circulation, and transports nutrients to give you energy. While this list is far from exhaustive, it gives you an idea of the extensive effect proper hydration has on athletic performance.
How Much Water do You Need to Stay Hydrated?
For optimal hydration, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs, drink 90 ounces of water everyday. This number should serve as benchmark. Higher consumption may be necessary depending on your activity level.
You should consider several factors when determining how much water to drink while training. How much you are sweating, the heat, and the humidity level are all important, as well as how long and hard you are training. Because everyone is different, a good way to determine how much water you should be drinking is to measure how much water you lose during exercise. Calculate this by weighing yourself before and after you exercise. Figure 16 to 24 ounces of fluid are lost for every pound of difference in your weight.
Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in. Once you know how much fluid you are losing over a given period of exercise, you can determine how much water to drink to offset that loss. As a general guideline, the American Council on Exercise recommends the following:
-17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising.
-8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up.
-7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
-8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.
Most athletes are familiar with checking the color of your urine to determine whether or not you are hydrated. If your urine is colorless or light yellow, there is a good chance you are well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber colored urine is a good indicator of dehydration.
What Happens When You Are Dehydrated?
Symptoms of dehydration include muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, lack of sweat, and a high pulse rate. Heat illness can occur when your body can’t cool itself effectively in hot weather. This can lead to weakness, loss of consciousnesses, and heatstroke.
Electrolytes and Sports Drinks Effect on Hydration
While consuming water is the best way to stay hydrated, high intensity or prolonged exercise may require additional nutrients to maintain a high level of performance. This extra nutrients usually comes in the form of a sports drink. When choosing a sports drink it is important to keep in mind that you are often also getting ingredients that could be detrimental to performance.
Drinks like Gatorade contain sugar and sodium in serving sizes that far exceed what athletes need while training. Many of these sports drinks also contain caffeine. Too much caffeine in your diet can have a diuretic effect (increased production of urine) leading to loss in fluid and dehydration. Stick to supplements that provide you with the electrolytes you need without all the extras.
Staying hydrated is a hugely important aspect of maintaining proper nutrition. Below are links to additional information, including what kinds of nutrients you need from sports drinks and which ones are best for athletes.
Drink Up for Sports and Fitness by Kathleen M. Zelman