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Hydration can play a large part in athletic performance. This article provides information that can help you perform at your highest level.
Hydration for Athletes
Dehydration (loss of >2% body weight) can decrease athletic performance and impair an athlete’s thought process. Dehydration also increases the risk of potentially life-threatening heat injury. Younger athletes need to consume water every 15-20 minutes during competitive events. Water is the fluid of choice, unless sports participation exceeds one hour in length. If a sports drink is indicated, avoid those with caffeine as they may lead to further dehydration and you may choose to decrease the sugar content by diluting the beverage with water.
Four hours before exercise, hydrate with 16 fluid ounces (450mL) of water or sport beverage to optimize hydration status and decrease the need to void during exercise. Hyperhydration prior to events does not prove to enhance performance.
During activity you lose water, sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride as sweat. Sweat rates vary depending on the temperature and performance. Beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates can help sustain fluid and electrolyte balance during activities lasting longer than one hour. Sports beverages containing only 6-8% carbohydrates and electrolytes are preferred for sports participation over one hour.
Rapid and complete recovery from dehydration can be achieved by post-hydration of 16-24 fluid ounces (450-675mL) of fluid for every pound (0.5 kg) of body weight lost during exercise. Sports beverages, carbohydrates and salty snacks will also assist in rehydration.
Hypohydration and Hyponatremia
Weight-class athletes, fluid restriction, diuretic use or sauna exposure prior to activity can lead to hypohydration. Also short intervals of recovery between exercise can lead to hypohydration.
Hyponatremia can result from low sodium intake, or excessive water intake while exercising. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use, prolonged exercise, low body weight, female sex and lack of weight loss during exercise are risk factors for development of hyponatremia. Hypohydrated and hyponatremic athletes may present with muscle cramping, muscle fatigue, unusual behavior or thought processes and serious electrolyte abnormalities. If any of these signs are present seek medical attention.
Cassidy M. Foley, D.O.
Pediatric Orthopedic Associates / Next Level Sports Medicine
ACSM American Dietetic Association Dietitians of Canada. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports &Exercise. 2009:41(3);709-731.