During exercise, sweat helps to cool the body from the inside out. But when you sweat, your body loses vital fluids and electrolytes. Too much sweat and not enough fluids can lead to dehydration, injury and poor athletic performance.
How much fluid does the athlete need?
Everyone requires a different amount of fluid. The environment, temperature, intensity of exercise, body size, gender, length of exercise, and fitness all effect fluid losses and fluid needs.
- Proper hydration varies between individuals, and thirst is not always a good indicator for athletes. The rule of thumb is, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water even before you begin physical activity.
- Urine color is the easiest way for athletes to monitor their hydration. Dark colored urine, the color of apple juice or darker, is a sign of dehydration. Ideally, urine should be the color of lemonade or lighter.
How often does the athlete need to consume fluids?
Athletes need to hydrate before, during, and after exercise. During exercise, rehydrate with water. For bouts of exercise lasting longer than an hour, sports drinks may be more appropriate. Create a drinking schedule during exercise to make sure hydration needs are being met. Take a sip of water every 10-15 minutes!
If you are unable to rehydrate during exercise, plan accordingly. Swimming is a good example of an exercise during which it is difficult to constantly rehydrate. Keep in mind you are still sweating. Make sure you drink plenty before and after exercise.
Meeting with a sports dietitian is the ideal way to develop a hydration plan that fits your needs.
Did You Know…
- Sodium is a key mineral involved in hydration. Water and sodium move together, so it is common to have salty-tasting sweat.
- Replenish sodium by consuming sodium-containing drinks or foods after exercise. If exercise lasts longer than 2 hours, you may need to supplement your diet with more salty foods.
The warning signs of dehydration include:
- Flushed skin
- Increased body temperature
- Faster pulse rate
- Decreased exercise capacity
- Difficulty breathing