Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Importance of Hydration

With August temperatures soaring into the high 80’s and 90’s around most of the country, staying well hydrated is a full time job for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Fluid consumption is especially important if you play sports outside in these hot, humid and sultry dog days of summer.

Being at fall ball tryouts last weekend when the temps hit 98 degrees made me realize how critical daily hydration, as well as rehydration, is to baseball players. Watching preadolescent players wilt as tryouts progressed, brought up a dangerous scenario that parents, coaches and trainers should all be aware of when working with young athletes. Lowered sweating capacity, poorly developed thirst mechanism and a limited ability to transfer heat from their muscles to their skin make this age group particularly vulnerable to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Core temperature rises in children at a faster rate than adults because they produce more metabolic heat than adults and it can cause serious heat-related illnesses. Adolescents also are still developing their body temperature control and are susceptible to these same issues. Special attention should be paid to drink adequate fluids before and during active play, as well as rehydrating properly afterwards, to reduce the risks of dehydration.

Dehydration has many negative, and possibly dangerous, effects on health and performance. Dehydration—even as little as 1-2 percent weight loss from sweating--is enough to diminish energy, accelerate fatigue and impair performance. A 2 percent weight loss is only 3 pounds for a 150 pound athlete. Sweat losses vary between individuals and with different exercise intensity, however, this amount of weight/sweat loss is not uncommon in hot, humid climates with several hours of practice and/or games. Some signs of dehydration include nausea, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, lightheadedness and lack of urination and sweating.

Players will benefit from weighing before and after practices and games to determine their sweat losses so that rehydration is adequate to replace fluid losses. For every pound lost, replace with 24 oz (3 cups) of fluids, like sports drinks, 100% fruit juices or chocolate milk. Because your body also needs to replace the electrolytes sodium and potassium that you lose along with sweat, these fluid choices that contain electrolytes help to do that. Both fluid and electrolytes need to be taken in to restore a positive water balance in the body after exercising over one hour or in extreme heat, humidity or high altitude. Sports drinks are the preferred drink, over water, during exercise because they provide energy in the form of carbohydrates and electrolytes that provide rapid fluid absorption.

How much should you drink? To make sure you are fully hydrated follow these hydration recommendations:

• At least 2 hours before drink 16-24 oz of fluids (all fluids count!)
• Follow with an additional 8-12 oz. of fluids 1 hour before (water or sports drinks)

During practice/games
• Drink 6-8oz. of fluids every 15 minutes (Best choice: sports drinks)
• Adolescents need to drink more: 8-12 oz every 15 minutes
• Consume at least 24 oz in one hour

Post game
• Drink 24 oz. of fluid
• Calculate fluids needed to replace those lost in sweat (1 pound =24 oz. of fluid) and continue drinking to meet those needs.

How do you know if you are drinking enough? The easiest, quickest way to know is to check the color of your urine. It should be the color of light lemonade, not apple juice. Monitor daily and adjust your drinking schedule accordingly to get the most out of your training and practices!

Winning Hydration Strategies

Every day drink at least half your body weight in ounces (For example:
A 160 pound athlete should drink 80 fluid ounces per day)

Drink before you are thirsty & keep drinking when you no longer feel thirsty!

Drink early and drink often throughout the day

Plan your fluids and carry a water bottle with you wherever you go

Do regular urine checks

Eat foods high in water, like fruit (at least 2 cups a day) & soups

Drink sports drinks that taste good to you to help you drink more during exercise

Avoid beverages like energy drinks, pop and fruit juice during exercise (they are too high in sugar and will delay gastric emptying & hydration)

Coaches: Develop Hydration Protocols for your teams and implement periodic drink stops every 15 minutes for adequate hydration that supports good performance!

By Kim Larson, RD, CD
Regular Contributor

1 comment:

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