Staying Hydrated for Basketball

STACK Expert Gawon Hyman lays out a hydration plan for basketball. Use it to maintain peak performance all game long.

Basketball Hydration

When you play hard on the court, your body loses fluids from sweating. You need to replenish those fluids with water or a sports drink, or you risk dehydration. It's important to recognize the signs of dehydration, because it can hurt your performance and even send you to the hospital if it's ignored for too long.

Signs of Dehydration

Early dehydration (1 to 2% body mass loss):

  • Sticky or dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Decreased urine output and dark yellow urine

As dehydration worsens (2 to 4% body mass loss):

  • Feelings of lower energy (lethargy)
  • Poor concentration
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

Your Basketball Hydration Blueprint

Part 1: Pre-Game

This is called pre-hydration. Drink about 16 ounces of water or a sports drink two hours prior to the game. Thirty minutes before tip-off, drink another 4 to 8 ounces.

Hydrating begins well before the jump ball. If you wait until you're thirsty, it's already too late, and your athletic performance will suffer.

Part 2: In-Game

During 90 minutes of intense exercise or competition, you can lose between 2 and 3 liters of sweat, and this will certainly hurt your performance unless you replenish. Sports drinks such as Gatorade contain the fluid and carbohydrates you need to maintain your hydration and energy levels during games.

To prevent cramping and keep you playing your best, consume at least 7 to 10 ounces of water for every 10 to 20 minutes of active game play.

Part 3: Post-Game

This is a time for recovery. You need to rehydrate and recover for the next game or the next day. One of the best recovery drinks, believe it or not, is chocolate milk. Get in 24 ounces immediately after competition and continue to replenish with fluids the rest of the evening.

Read More:


ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000: 315-316

American College of Sports Medicine. "Position Stand on Exercise and Fluid Replacement." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. i-vii, 1996

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