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Keeping hydrated in sport

No matter what sport you play, you should pay close attention to what you drink, how often you drink, and the quantity you drink. It is not the type of sport you play, but rather the time and intensity that are important.

What’s the big deal about water? Because your body is 75% water, water plays an important role in your health. Here’s the short list. It regulates your body’s temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, removes wastes from inside your body, and cushions joints and protects organs and tissues. Dehydration puts a strain on your heart by decreasing blood volume. It increases body temperature which can lead to heat stroke. Dehydration also clouds your thinking making you less likely to think on your feet. None of these outcomes are going to help you win.

Through sweating, breathing, and urination, the average person loses 8-10 cups of water per day -without strenuous exercise. Therefore, it is critical to replace what you lose. Fluid needs are a top priority because you are often on the field or court for hours in hot, humid conditions especially during the summer months.

The good news is that water is in most foods you eat. More so in fresh fruits and vegetables than other types of foods so try to eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables each day (also good for providing other nutrients to keep you healthy and strong).

Drinking water is not your only option for hydration. All fluids count toward your overall intake (except alcohol). However, beverages with caffeine will cause you to run to the bathroom more often. This can be disruptive during your playing time. You will benefit more from fluids that are not sugar laden like soft drink. During exercise, drink sports drinks instead of water. Sports drinks are absorbed more readily into your body.

How much is enough? Next time you are in the bathroom check out the colour of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, then you are staying hydrated. If a darker shade, then you may be lagging in the fluid department.

There is an additional way to gauge your hydration needs. Weigh yourself before and after your workout, without clothes. Chances are you weigh less after a hard workout. This is water loss, not fat loss. People sweat at different rates, so this method allows you to adjust your intake accordingly. If you expect to perform well the next time, then you must replace the lost fluids. Drink 1.2 litres for every kilogram lost.

Thirst is not usually a good indicator of your needs because often you are already dehydrated by the time you feel thirsty. Drink throughout the day and follow the guidelines below on the days you are training or have events.

Hydration tips:

– Sports drinks provide the right mix of carbohydrates (needed for energy) and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium lost in sweat) to be absorbed quickly.

– Drink 500-600ml 2 hours pre-event.

– Drink 250-300ml immediately before playing.

– Drink 200-250ml every 15-20 minutes during an event or training session. Take advantage of short breaks during time-outs, half-time or changing sides.

– Replenish after an event with 1.2 litres for every kilo lost.