DEHYDRATION IS THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DECREASED PERFORMANCE AMONG ATHLETES.

Everyone knows you should drink water.

However, it might surprise you to know that most young athletes deal with some level of dehydration before practice or competition even begins. Without proper hydration before activity, no athlete can perform at his or her peak potential. And it doesn’t stop there.

Without proper hydration during activity, your performance can drop significantly. Dehydration can bring on heat illness and decrease your strength, power, speed, and endurance.

What happens when you lose hydration?

You only have to lose about two percent of your body weight in sweat to experience decreased performance. As your blood volume drops, you have less blood and less oxygen getting delivered to your working muscles. You have less waste products being carried away. The result? You’ll feel like you’re working harder than you should. You can also end up with an elevated temperature and heart rate.

Watch out for these signs of dehydration!

Mild Dehydration

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
Moderate Dehydration

  • Low Endurance
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased Strength
Severe Dehydration

  • Fever
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Death

hydration

What and how much to drink

Hydration is very individualized based on body size. Generally, the amount of fluid you need is calculated by dividing your weight by two (in ounces). That number equals how many ounces of fluid you should consume daily to meet your fluid needs (e.g, a 120 pound person needs 60 ounces of fluid per day).

Sounds like a lot! But you can actually subtract around 20% to account for the fluid in foods you eat (fruit, vegetables, grains). In addition, the fluid you drink in coffee, tea, milk, 100% juice, etc. all count toward your fluid needs. So you don’t actually have to drink half your body weight in water every day.

But remember that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

You can also over hydrate. Drinking too much water dilutes the sodium in your blood stream. This creates a condition called hyponatremia, which can be deadly. For this reason, sports beverages can be very beneficial during exercise by supplying electrolytes, which plain water does not contain.

IN RELATION TO SPORTS NUTRITION, IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU HYDRATE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

When to drink

Timing is important. Two to three hours before practice or competition, consume 17 to 20 ounces of fluid. This allows enough time for the fluid to arrive in your stomach, leave and get disseminated throughout your body. 

During activity, drink about 6 to 10 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. Ideal fluid consumption during activity should be based on your sweat rate, so take this as a rule of thumb and modify accordingly. Some athletes need more fluid during exercise and some athletes need less – a sports dietitian can help you sort this out.

Obviously, you should replace fluids after exercise right away. The amount of fluid you need depends on how much sweat you lost during exercise. Here’s how to calculate how much fluid you need to replenish:

your weight before exercise (wear as little clothing as possible)
your weight after exercise (wear as little clothing as possible)
+ the fluid you drank during exercise
= total pounds of sweat loss
For every pound (16 ounces) of sweat that you lose, you will need to drink about 20 to 24 ounces of fluid.

HAVE YOU DONE A GOOD JOB HYDRATING? CHECK OUT THE COLOR OF YOUR URINE.

The color of your urine shows your hydration status two hours ago. If you’re well hydrated, your urine will look like pale lemonade. If you’re poorly hydrated, it look concentrated and dark like apple juice.

Certain vitamins and minerals can affect the color of your urine but usually right after you’ve taken the vitamin. That affect should not last all day long. Clear urine is a sign that you could be over hydrated (you should not have to race to the bathroom every hour).

hydration-urine-color-chart-3

Staying hydrated should be at the forefront of your mind all day, every day. It’s difficult to catch up once you’re thirsty and already dehydrated…and your performance level will reflect this. Follow our guidelines, and you can stay on top of the hydration game.

Tracy Owens

About Tracy Owens

Tracy Owens (MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN) is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She has worked in private practice, providing clinical and sports nutrition for over 20 years. Her two sons and two daughters have played AAU baseball, USSSA baseball, Legion baseball, Challenge, United, Premier, Elite and ECNL soccer at Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), USTA tennis, summer swim teams, and high school football, swimming, baseball and soccer. Two of her children played Division 1 soccer at North Carolina State University.

Change Your Nutrition and Change Your Game!