The Ashburn Impact
Staying Hydrated in the Heat is the Key to A Successful Season
It’s important to stay properly hydrated. During exercise, water and electrolytes are lost in sweat. If the loss is not replenished, this could lead to a decrease in performance and potential life-threatening, heat-related injuries. Younger athletes are more at risk for dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration:
- Muscle cramps
- Inability to concentrate
Athletic performance is at its best when fluid balance is achieved. Optimal hydration should replace sweat loss. The Institute of Medicine recommends that sodium, potassium and carbohydrates be included in replacement beverages. An adequate amount of sodium may help prevent cramping, and carbohydrates provide extra energy. Cramping for nutritional reasons is almost always due to a loss of fluid and sodium. Note that the amount of electrolytes in a sports drink is less than the amount in sweat.
3 Easy Ways to Assess Hydration:
- Sweat Rate: To determine sweat rate, first weigh yourself naked or in typical workout gear. After working out for about an hour, change into dry clothes, wipe off all sweat and weigh yourself again. The difference in body weight is your sweat rate assuming you didn’t drink or eat during the workout. For every pound lost, replace with 16 oz of fluids within 24 hours.
- Specific Gravity: Testing the specific gravity of your urine will also help to assess hydration. Test strips are available at most drugstores along with directions on use. Urine specific gravity should be within the range of 1.010 to 1.020.
- Urine Color: Assessing urine color during exercise is another way to monitor hydration. The lighter the color, the healthier the hydration.
The amount of fluid and electrolytes needed for exercise depends on many different factors which affect sweat loss including age, gender, clothing, weather, medications, recent heat exposure, intensity and duration of exercise, and fitness level.
When beginning exercise it’s important for athletes to be well-hydrated. At least 4 hours before physical activity begins, drink a ½ cup of fluid for every 40 pounds of body weight. Hydrating during exercise is very important, but amounts will differ based on an individual’s sweating and duration and intensity of exercise. Hydration should occur during every break. Once completing exercise, it’s essential to replace what was lost. By adding extra sodium into the diet in the recovery phase, thirst is increased and fluid is recovered. Fruits and vegetables are hidden sources of fluid.
What to Drink?
First, experts in the field of sports medicine and science often talk about the importance of pre-hydrating. In other words, drinking regularly throughout the day so you’re properly hydrated before you begin physical activity. This will make it easier for you to stay hydrated throughout your work out, practice or game.
Next, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout a game or practice. And there are several products our industry offers that are conducive to proper hydration for athletes. Sports drinks are probably the most commonly known. But there are vitamin waters or enhanced waters, along with regular bottled water, that can provide important hydration benefits to athletes as well.
All of these products can give athletes the fluids needed to perform at their optimum levels. Most importantly, it will help them perform their activity safely — without becoming dehydrated and put at risk — particularly on hot days.
Now, one beverage category that activists seem to be taking shots at lately (mainly because it continues to sell well) are sports drinks. Sports drinks are brands such as Gatorade, Powerade, All Sport or Capri-Sun Sports. The critics, who almost always are not experts in proper hydration for athletes, even casual athletes, like to dismiss sports drinks as “salty, sugar water.”
Advice: Whenever you hear a critic use that term “salty, sugar water” dismiss them immediately as someone who has no clue what they are talking about when it comes to effective hydration during physical activity.
Yes, sports drinks contain sodium. And yes they contain sugar, a carbohydrate. Sodium is an essential element that athletes sweat out of their bodies and need to replenish to maintain fluid balance. And the sugar, or carbohydrate, is needed to provide fuel for muscles – helping athletes avoid weakening during their physical activity.
Another common criticism of sports drinks are the calories, which come mainly from the sugar/carbohydrate. First, if you’re exercising and participating in sports, you are going to not just burn off those calories but use them in an efficient manner to maximize your workout or performance on the field. Second, sports drinks contain approximately half the calories of a soft drink – so again, sports drinks contain the amount of calories you need for performance. Finally, if you do prefer fewer calories, most companies are now providing sports drinks with less of them.
There are many beverages – including a variety of waters — that can provide important hydration for athletes of all levels, or just the average person trying to be more active by walking more. Check out the American Beverage Association’s products site for more information on products beneficial for physical activity, paying special attention to the sports drinks as well as bottled water and water beverages sections.
The bottom line: Get out there and be active. But don’t forget to hydrate properly during physical activity — whether it’s during a strenuous, competitive sport or a more casual form of exercise like a brisk walk. Your body needs it – the exercise and the fluids.