When people are asked what the most important nutrient is to improve performance in sport, they will usually mention protein or carbohydrate. Of course these are needed but it is even more important to make sure your body is hydrated before, during, and after training and games. Here are some things that water does for our bodies:
- Carries oxygen to our brain, heart, and muscles
- Removes waste
- Cushions our brain and spinal cord
- Keeps our body temperature normal
We need 2-3 litres (8-12 cups) of fluid a day to stay healthy but we also need to drink more when we are active to replace what is lost when we sweat. If we don’t drink more fluid than what we lose we will become dehydrated. Dehydration can make you feel tired, hot, dizzy, and give you cramps. This can affect your performance on the field and can even be dangerous on a hot day.
Tips for staying hydrated:
Drink fluid every day, even when you are not feeling thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Avoid energy drinks and high sugar drinks (pop, juice) which make you more dehydrated and stick to drinking mostly water. The best way to know if you are hydrated is to check your urine (pee) when you are going to the bathroom. If it is clear or light yellow (like lemonade) you are doing well. If it is dark yellow (like apple juice) you are dehydrated and need more water.
Because exercise makes our body lose more water you also need to be drinking fluids before, during, and after games and training. Try out this routine during practices and games:
- 2 hours before: 500-750 mL (2-3 cups)
- 15 minutes before: 250-500 mL (1-2 cups)
- During: 125-250 mL (0.5-1 cup) every 15 minutes. During games try to have water between scores and at halftime.
- After: 500 mL (2 cups) for every pound of body weight loss or as you feel you need. The weight we lose after exercise is water loss so weigh yourself before and after a game to get an idea of how much water you need.
Remember this is a guideline. Our bodies are all different and you may need more if it is a very hot day or you sweat a lot.
What about sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)
Energy drinks contain water for hydration along with sugar to give you quick energy and electrolytes (sodium, and potassium) to replenish what you lose when you sweat. Water is the best choice for most activities but sports drinks may be helpful if you are exercising over an hour and it is very hot and/or you sweat a lot. You can also have a snack at halftime to provide the same nutrients. For example have some salted crackers or pretzels and water at halftime.