Hydration and the Elite AthleteDehydration
Proper Hydration for Peak Performance
One of the best ways to keep at the top of your game is easy to do, but often forgotten. Stay fully hydrated. Research has shown that losing as little as 2 % of total body weight can negatively affect athletic performance in intense, competitive sports.
“Your body loses fluids during practice or competition through sweat and through the lungs while breathing”, said Sports Medicine Specialist, Marc Kowalsky, MD. If those fluids aren’t replaced at regular intervals, the volume of blood circulating through your body will decrease, meaning the amount of blood pumped to your heart will decrease. Your muscles won’t receive the oxygen they need and you are more likely to feel fatigue earlier than you would if you were fully hydrated. Prolonged and severe hydration can create more serious problems, including death, so we don’t want to go there.
So how can you tell how much fluid you need to stay hydrated?
You may have heard that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. That’s true. Studies show that people usually don’t feel thirsty until nearly 2% of their body weight is reduced through dehydration. By that time, your performance has already begun to suffer.
The general rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before and after high level activity. The loss in body weight represents the volume of fluids that you need to maintain to achieve your peak performance. You need to consume three cups of fluid for every pound lost during a heavy training session or game. One good measure of your hydration success can be seen by simply looking at the color of your urine. Darker urine indicates dehydration levels. You are fully hydrated when your urine is faintly tinted. Over-hydration, which has a host of problems too, is indicated if your urine is completely clear, so don’t go overboard.
If you are having a moderate training day, water should suffice to replace lost fluids, However, intense training or activity, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, calls for beverages that contain 6-8 percent carbohydrates, 110- 240 mg of sodium and some electrolytes, per 8 ounce serving. Avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeine and alcohol and energy drinks that contain too much or too little sodium.
Timing of when you drink water or an appropriate sports drink is also important. You should drink 7 – 12 ounces of cold fluid about 15 – 20 minutes before your activity, then 4 – 8 ounces of cold fluid at 20-minute intervals during the activity. Weigh yourself when your game, practice or workout is over, then drink three cups of fluid for every pound that has been lost.