The Most Important Ingredient?
Tips for Hydration During Sporting Events
by Stephanie Guy, Dietician, Rose Medical Center
Whether you are training for a marathon or just
out on a leisurely bike ride, one of the most
important things to remember is to HYDRATE. People
trying to get that "edge" in their athletic
performance are willing to spend money on all
types of different pills, supplements, bars, and
other items, but most of us tend to forget the
most important ingredient ... WATER.
This is an especially important topic to address
in the summer months, since the temperature consistently
reaches the 90s. Since dehydration can decrease
exercise performance, adequate fluid is necessary
for your health. It also enables you to perform
to the best of your ability.
How Important is Water?
Water is involved in almost every bodily process
in some way or another. Water aids in temperature
regulation and blood circulation. The average
adult loses 2 quarts (eight cups) of water a day.
An athlete (depending on the activity and length
of time) can loose that much in an hour of hard
Athletes should be well hydrated not only during
an event, but also before and after the event
as well. Thirst is not a good indicator of how
well one is hydrated. By the time you are "thirsty"
you may be already dehydrated and this can influence
your athletic performance.
- Make sure you are well-hydrated 24 hours before
- Avoid caffeine drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic
and can cause you to urinate more frequently.
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends
drinking 1½ to 2 ½ cups of fluid
2-3 hours prior to exercise
- The goal is to try and obtain fluid balance.
Usually, it is recommended to drink frequently
(6-12 ounces), about every 15-20 minutes. (1)
- Beverages containing carbohydrates are recommended
for exercise events lasting longer than one hour.
(1) These could include diluted juice or sports
drinks. Avoid drinks that are too concentrated.
They may cause cramping and slow the rate of absorption.
- Generally, if the exercise is less than an hour,
water should be adequate.
Most of us fail to consume adequate fluids during
exercise. Thus, after the event we are probably
dehydrated to some extent.
- In addition to water, it is usually recommended
to take in some type of sodium. This is only needed
after participating in a lengthy activity (greater
than an hour). This is to replace the losses that
occur when you sweat and help in the hydration
process. This doesn't have to be a commercial
sports drink. You can get sodium through a meal
or by using condiments, such as ketchup or soy
sauce. You don't need a lot of salt to replace
- One suggestion is to drink at least 16-24 ounces
of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during
exercise. (You will need a pre-event weight).
- You don't have to drink only water to meet your
fluid needs. Popsicles, lemonade, juice, or oranges
can also help hydrate you.
Children are susceptible to dehydration. Their
thirst mechanism may not be as developed as ours,
so make sure they drink, drink, and drink! If
they urinate every two to four hours, they should
be getting the appropriate amount of fluid. (2)
Certain factors that are associated with altitude
can cause one to lose more fluid. (1)
Humid/hot climates can increase the risk of dehydration
considerably. If the humidity is 100 percent,
sweat isn't vaporized to help with the cooling
process. Instead, it drips from the body. Therefore,
you are losing fluid without the benefit of the
"cooling down" process. (1)
NOTE: If you have any
questions about hydration and your health, please
consult your physician. Working together, you
and your physician are the best "team"
when it comes to what's "best" for your
specific questions and needs!