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The Importance of Proper Hydration in Athletic Performance

The Importance of Proper Hydration in Athletic Performance

Before we dive headlong into the many and varied action sports we’ll be discussing on a monthly basis in this column, I thought I’d cover the most important and yet simplest performance tip I can give any athlete. Water and how to use it to boost your athletic performance.

No athlete can compete at his or her best without proper hydration. Water is the most essential ingredient to any athletic performance. Water has many important functions in the body, these are just a few:
• Transportation of nutrients / elimination of waste products.
• Lubricating joints and tissues.
• Temperature regulation through sweating.
• Facilitating digestion.
• First line of defense in immune system function – mucus production.
Proper hydration is especially important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for athletes is essential to comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids.
Finding the right amount of water to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences. There is, however, one simple way to gauge the amount of water an athlete should consume daily. The general rule of thumb for everyone is to consume ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 100 pounds, you would need to consume a minimum of 50 ounces of water per day. That number provides a baseline for daily intake and from there each athlete needs to customize his or her own daily intake. Training and competing in the area where we live requires extra importance when it comes to the amount of water we need to consume on a daily basis.
Things that affect fluid loss in athletes include:
• Temperature. Competing in the heat increases your fluid loss through sweating.
• Sweating. Some athletes sweat more than others. If you sweat a lot you are at greater risk for dehydration.
• Competition duration and intensity. Events that are endurance oriented require you to drink more and more frequently to avoid dehydration.
• Altitude. Higher altitudes cause the athlete to increase fluid losses and therefore increase fluid needs.
• Diuretics. Diuretics are substances which when taken into the body cause your body to lose water. They typically include caffeine containing fluids such as coffee, tea and especially soda.
With the plethora of sports drinks and high profile athletes pushing them, it can be a challenge to decide which product to use or whether to use them at all. Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces help to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance. It’s really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you’re unlikely to deplete your body’s stores of these minerals during normal training. The extra calories that come with the electrolyte drinks can certainly be a deficit for the weekend athlete as they add as much as they burn during their workout.
While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point, and modify their fluid needs accordingly.
Hydrate well prior to competition:
• Drink about 15-20 fl oz, 2-3 hours before exercise.
• Drink 8-10 fl oz 10-15 min. before exercise.
Hydrate well during exercise:
• Drink 8-10 fl oz every 10-15 min during exercise.
• If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz of a sports drink (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 15 – 30 minutes.
Hydrate well after exercise:
• Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.
• Drink 20-24 fl oz water for every 1 lb lost.
Focusing on this simple training tip can have a big impact on your athletic performance, reduce down time from preventable injuries and ensure that your body has what it needs to function at its peak everyday!

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