It's no secret that many factors go into molding a star athlete. Conditioning, strength training, practice, game play and competition are always the frontrunners. Unfortunately, athletes often forget to properly hydrate. (See All-Day Hydration Game Plan.)
As a coach, it's my job to ensure that my players are always healthy, right from the beginning of the season. At my first practice after tryouts, I distribute healthy eating handouts and discuss the importance of hydration for volleyball players. The handout details a few hydration points to follow, not just on the court but also in their daily routines. It states:
- Drink water all day long. Keep a water bottle on you at all times during school, in your backpack or locker, and be sure to refill it.
- If you have a choice, drink tea instead of coffee (for the older kids).
- Stay away from soda and fruit juices that are high in sugar. These types of drinks will in fact dehydrate you.
- Pre-game, on the court and post-game: switch to a drink with electrolytes to add, maintain and replenish those elements in your body.
The best electrolyte drinks for athletes are:
- Gatorade - The best known and most popular brand on the market.
- Propel Fitness Water - Owned by the same company that makes Gatorade, it typically has fewer calories than Gatorade.
- GU2O - Comes in powder form and is mixed with water; has only 100 calories and comes in a variety of flavors.
- PowerBar Endurance - Created by the company that makes the PowerBar, this electrolyte beverage is formulated exclusively for athletes; it is a powder-based beverage that also adds energy.
- Cytomax - Comes as a powder or premixed drink. Athletes can choose among several products: Cytomax Protein, Fast Twitch and Recovery.
- Accelerade - This is a protein-driven electrolyte drink that packs a whopping 10g of protein into each serving.
Don't forget the "recovery" aspect of each workout. It's important to replenish your body with electrolytes once your workout or game is over. Then switch back to water for the remainder of time before your next practice.
Coaches, be sure to give breaks during practice drills and call timeouts during games. Keeping your players properly hydrated will allow them to have more energy and suffer less fatigue. (See how it helped Misty May-Treanor battle the Brazilian heat.)
Finally, proper hydration for volleyball players involves following the three-step regimen—before, during and after activity.