Staying hydrated is critical for sustaining strength, speed and endurance. Too often, athletes sabotage their performance by not drinking enough fluids during the day or during a game. Extreme dehydration can lead to serious medical issues, which could land you on the bench for an extended period of time.
To satisfy your body's fluid needs, follow these daily hydration guidelines:
During the Day
Drinking water consistently throughout the day helps prevent dehydration during a practice, game or training session later in the day. It keeps your body functioning at its peak level and avoids the need to consume large amounts of fluid to make up for a previous shortage.
As a general guideline, drink one ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight. However, hydration requirements vary for each athlete, even depending on the day, so it's important to be mindful of your own hydration status. The best way to determine if you're drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. Clear is hydrated. Dark is dehydrated. [Learn how to asses your hydration status.]
Hydration before activity ensures that you've topped off your tank. On the other hand, don't drink so much that your stomach has water sloshing around while you are trying to give your max effort. Cheryl Zonkowski, University of Florida director of sports nutrition, provides these guidelines for pre-activity hydration:
- Two hours prior – 20 oz.
- One hour prior – 16 oz.
- 15 minutes prior – 8 oz.
You constantly lose water and minerals, such as sodium and potassium, through sweating. This can result in performance-degrading dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance that reduces your muscles' ability to contract. Studies show that performance begins to decrease with as little as two percent bodyweight lost to dehydration.
To counter this, experts recommend that athletes consume sports drinks, like Gatorade, which are specifically designed to supply a combination of fluid and electrolytes. Zonkowski suggests drinking eight to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes throughout training, practice or a game.
As an added benefit, fluids work to keep you cool, which is important for an athlete working hard in the heat of the sun or when wearing full equipment.
Even if you stick to these hydration guidelines, you might have consumed less fluid than you expelled through sweat. To complete your daily hydration, Zonkowski recommends weighing yourself (in as little clothing as possible) before and after activity, then drinking 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
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