Hydration Tips for Athletes
Did you know, the human body is composed of about 50-60% water? Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but athletes need to take special care to maintain proper hydration levels, as hydration affects cognitive function, thermoregulation, joint lubrication, and muscle function.
Follow along with Megan Stanley MS, RD, LDN, as she covers hydration facts and tips to help athletes know when and how to hydrate to perform at their best and recover after a workout or competition.
On average, athletes typically lose 0.5-2.0 liters of sweat per hour of exercise. That is equal to 2-8 cups or 16-66 ounces. Eight cups are the amount most people drink in a day!
Dehydration of more than 2% of your body weight during a competition or workout leads to decrements in performance. Additionally, if the fluids lost through sweat are not replaced, it can lead to increased injury risk, headache, fatigue, and hospitalization.
Having a hydration plan in place can help ensure a productive and safe workout. To assess your hydration, pay attention to your weight, urine color, and thirst. Your bodyweight should not fluctuate more than 1% within a day. Your urine should be the color of lemonade or lighter. Feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth indicates a need for fluids. Additional signs of dehydration include:
- Dark, low volumes of urine
- Dry mouth and cracked lips
- Dizziness and headache
- Poor appetite, nausea, and cramps
- Cessation of sweating
If you notice any of these indicators before or during a workout, stop and rehydrate as soon as possible.
To prevent dehydration and any adverse symptoms, follow these hydration guidelines before, during, and after exercise:
- Before: Aim for 16-20 ounces in the four hours before exercise. It can also be helpful to snack on salty foods for electrolytes to aid in fluid balance.
- During: Aim to drink a minimum of 3-8 ounces every twenty minutes. Consume more fluids if desired.
- After: Rehydrate with 16-24 ounces per pound of bodyweight lost during exercise within two hours of completing a workout.
It is usually best to rehydrate with water. However, salty sweaters, athletes who are planning to workout longer than one hour, or have multiple workouts within a day may want to grab a sports drink. Sports drinks contain electrolytes, which are lost in sweat and are important for muscle function and fluid balance. Replacing electrolytes after heavy workouts helps to aid in recovery and rehydration.
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