Hydration for Successful Sports Performance

January 11, 2011

Must See Nutrition Videos

As bright gym lights beat down on you during practice, sweat drips from your brow and a vision of ice-cold sugary lemonade appears before you—remember that what you drink before, during and after practice or a game greatly affects your performance. Temperature, altitude, duration and intensity all impact your hydration status as well.

We sweat to cool our bodies; however, we must replenish the fluids we lose. The average couch potato excretes 32 ounces of sweat per day, just through his feet. Athletes lose more than this, but since sweat evaporates, they don’t always recognize it. Even when temperatures plummet during the winter months, we still lose fluids.

Dehydration can greatly hinder performance, causing fatigue, cramping and headaches. Fatigue can cause slower sprints, shorter jumps, faulty pivots and delayed reaction time. According to research at Penn State University, adult basketball players can experience up to a six percent decrease in shooting percentage and a seven percent decrease in sprint times when they are dehydrated just two percent [the equivalent of a four pound deficit for a 200-pound player]. Furthermore, performance is impacted whether dehydration occurs before or during play.

Common tips for staying hydrated include drinking two liters [68 ounces] of water daily and consuming a cup of water or a sports drink 15 to 30 minutes before a game and throughout it when possible. Ensure that the water is cold. The colder the fluid, the more quickly it is absorbed and taken up to the muscles. Also, gulping is better than sipping—it will be absorbed faster. Check your urine color. If it’s clear to pale yellow, you are in a hydrated state. Dark yellow or brownish color definitely means dehydration.

The type of sports drink is also important. Electrolytes [e.g., sodium and potassium] are lost through sweating, and the loss may cause cramping. To maintain adequate blood sugar levels, make sure your sports drink [e.g., G2] contains at least a two percent carbohydrate load. Consuming a sports drink with some carbohydrate is important, because our brains function on carbohydrate. The brain needs carbohydrate to keep mental status up to par during a game. Not only will it fuel the brain, it will also fuel the body’s muscles.

Not all drinks are created equal, though, depending on the sport. For higher intensity sports, opt for standard sports drinks. Low-intensity sports such as baseball or golf call for sports drinks that are low in calories but offer sufficient electrolytes.

Regular sodas or smoothies contain a lot of sugar [up to 17 packets of sugar per bottle]. If you drink something with too much carbohydrate, you will slow water absorption, creating “sloshing” in the stomach. Keep in mind that sports drinks should be consumed during exercise—not as a drink replacement with meals or if you’re just thirsty.

Jenna Stranzl is a registered dietitian who currently serves as sports nutritionist for Major League Strength, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and as consulting R.D. to the Philadelphia Flyers. Her prior experience includes IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., Athletes’ Performance, the Penn State Sports Nutrition Clinic and Wyeth Nutrition/Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Stranzl has contributed to MLB’s RBI Program [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities], NFL pre-Combine training and professional baseball organizations. She is a graduate of Penn State University.

Jenna Stranzl
- Jenna Stranzl is a registered dietitian who currently serves as sports nutritionist for Major League Strength, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and as consulting R.D. to...
Jenna Stranzl
- Jenna Stranzl is a registered dietitian who currently serves as sports nutritionist for Major League Strength, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and as consulting R.D. to...

Featured Videos

Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 182,224
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,271,699
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 81,017
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,781
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,195,981
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,321
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,467
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,921,007

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Powerade Removes Controversial Ingredient

Powerade Removes Controversial Ingredient

Hydration Guidelines for Volleyball Players

Hydration Guidelines for Volleyball Players

Water or Sports Drinks: What to Drink When?

Water or Sports Drinks: What to Drink When?

Think Before You Gulp: Sports Drinks

Think Before You Gulp: Sports Drinks

Staying Hydrated for Basketball

Staying Hydrated for Basketball

INFOGRAPHIC: 5 Hydration Rules You Need to Know

INFOGRAPHIC: 5 Hydration Rules You Need to Know

4 Hydration Rules for Football Players

4 Hydration Rules for Football Players

Electrolytes Explained

Electrolytes Explained

Tips to Avoid Dehydration

Tips to Avoid Dehydration

How to Hydrate With Food

How to Hydrate With Food

I Hate Water: Healthy Alternatives to H2O

I Hate Water: Healthy Alternatives to H2O

Avoid Dehydration During Your Next Hockey Game

Avoid Dehydration During Your Next Hockey Game

New Gatorade Montage Counts 50 Years of Fueling Athletes

New Gatorade Montage Counts 50 Years of Fueling Athletes

How to Schedule Your Hydration

How to Schedule Your Hydration

7 Rules for Keeping Hydrated

7 Rules for Keeping Hydrated

Cutting Weight for Wrestling: 3-Step Sodium Strategy

Cutting Weight for Wrestling: 3-Step Sodium Strategy

Healthy Hydration for Hockey Players

Healthy Hydration for Hockey Players

How Dehydration Impairs Sports Performance

How Dehydration Impairs Sports Performance

Does Coffee Dehydrate You?

Does Coffee Dehydrate You?

Opinion: Your Post-Workout Recovery Nutrition Should Be Liquid

Opinion: Your Post-Workout Recovery Nutrition Should Be Liquid

6 Effective Drinks for Athletes

6 Effective Drinks for Athletes

How to Hydrate Your Body

How to Hydrate Your Body

Too Much of a Good Thing: The Danger of Over-Hydration

Too Much of a Good Thing: The Danger of Over-Hydration

How to Stay Hydrated When It's Hot and Humid

How to Stay Hydrated When It's Hot and Humid

Beat the Heat: Hydrate with Lemon

Beat the Heat: Hydrate with Lemon

BPA: Health Hazard In Your Water Bottle?

BPA: Health Hazard In Your Water Bottle?

Why Pedialyte Is a Good Source of Hydration for Hockey Players

Why Pedialyte Is a Good Source of Hydration for Hockey Players

Hydration Inside the Race Car

Hydration Inside the Race Car

11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

12 Must-Know Hydration Rules for Athletes

12 Must-Know Hydration Rules for Athletes

Living the #JugLife: Javale McGee Wants You to Drink More Water

Living the #JugLife: Javale McGee Wants You to Drink More Water

Will This Edible Blob Replace Your Water Bottle?

Will This Edible Blob Replace Your Water Bottle?

This Ebola Treatment Sounds a Lot Like Your Sports Drink

This Ebola Treatment Sounds a Lot Like Your Sports Drink

Ask the Experts: Am I Drinking Too Much Water?

Ask the Experts: Am I Drinking Too Much Water?

4 Ways to Carry Backpack Hydration

4 Ways to Carry Backpack Hydration

Beat the Heat During Training With These Hydration Strategies

Beat the Heat During Training With These Hydration Strategies

Hydration: Follow the Rules That Help Your Performance

Hydration: Follow the Rules That Help Your Performance

Surviving Football Hell Week: A Nutrition Guide

Surviving Football Hell Week: A Nutrition Guide

An Athlete's Guide to Late-Summer Dehydration

An Athlete's Guide to Late-Summer Dehydration

INFOGRAPHIC: 5 Hacks to Perform Better in the Heat

INFOGRAPHIC: 5 Hacks to Perform Better in the Heat

Beat the Heat and Dominate Two-a-Days

Beat the Heat and Dominate Two-a-Days

How Much Water Should Athletes Drink Every Day?

How Much Water Should Athletes Drink Every Day?

Winter Dehydration: Are You At Risk?

Winter Dehydration: Are You At Risk?

Compare 3 of the Most Popular Hydration Backpacks

Compare 3 of the Most Popular Hydration Backpacks

Individualize Your Hydration Schedule

Individualize Your Hydration Schedule

YardBarker