Proper Hydration for Athletes

Effects of dehydration

  • Dehydration can affect your performance in less than an hour of exercise – sooner if you begin practice dehydrated
  • Dehydration of greater than 3% of your body weight will increase your risk of heat illness (ie. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke)

Warning signs of dehydration

  • Thirst
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Decreased Performance

What to drink during exercise

  • Sports drink with carbohydrate (ideal concentration 6-8%)
  • If exercise is greater than 45-50 minutes or is intense, water or a sports drink should be available
  • Fluids with salt increase thirst and offset the amount lost in sweat
  • Cool beverages at temperature of 50-59°F

What not to drink

  • Sodas, Fruit Juices, Alcohol, Caffeine, or Coffee
  • Drinks with greater than 8% carbohydrates
  • All of the above products decrease thirst and stimulate urine production – leading to dehydration

Hydration Tips

  • Drink before, during, and after practices and games
  • Avoid sodas and juice during exercise because the high carbohydrate levels may cause stomach problems
  • Drink according to a schedule based on individual needs
  • By the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated

Fluid Guidelines
Before exercise:

  • 2-3 hours before exercise, drink 17 -20 ounces of water or a sports drink
  • 10-20 minutes before exercise; drink another 7-10 ounces of water or sports drink

During exercise:

  • Drink early – Even minimal dehydration compromises performance
  • In general, every 10-20 minutes drink 7-10 ounces of water or sports drink
  • To maintain hydration, drink beyond thirst

After exercise:

  • Within 2 hours drink enough to replace any weight loss from exercise
  • Drink approximately 20-24 ounces of a sports drink/water per pound of weight lost

Take from the NATA position statement on fluid replacement for athletes; Journal of Athletic Training 35 (2): 212-224-2000


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