One of the most misunderstood components of nutrition for athletes is water — in fact, 70 per cent of your body is water!
You lose fluid and electrolytes from sweating while exercising. Hydrating your body properly not only helps with performance, but aids in muscle and tendon recovery, joint lubrication and body temperature regulation, plus it allows for proper function of your nutritional system to get fuel into your body.
Sweating happens more in dry climates or warm training areas, however, it can still happen in the swimming pool or when it is cold. It is important to recognize the signs of dehydration, which can be thirst, cramps, nausea, headaches, or dizziness during exercise.
An easy way to monitor your hydration is by checking the colour of your urine. If it is a clear or a colour like light lemonade, all is good. But if it is a darker yellow, like apple juice, you need more fluid intake.
An interesting point from a French study of school children showed that 60 per cent of children between nine and 11 years of age were dehydrated when they arrived for school in the morning.
You need to build a reserve before exercise or sport, so you should consume 16 ounces of fluid 2-3 hours before you participate — think of an ounce as a gulp!
Then about 10-15 minutes before you start the game or practice, you should top up with another 8-10 ounces. Remember that if you are participating in a team sport to have separate water bottles to prevent the spread of any colds or the flu!
While you are practising or playing a game, a good rule to follow is 8-10 ounces for every 20 minutes of activity.
If your practice or game lasts more than 60 minutes, you may want to consider a sports drink like G2 or Biosteel to replenish the electrolytes you have lost in your sweat.
It is important to distinguish between these formulated recovery products and “energy” drinks that are full of caffeine and sugar and actually dehydrate you and can cause serious health problems. They have no place in the nutrition plan.
A good option is a simple homemade sports drink containing 500 ml of unsweetened 100 per cent fruit juice, 500 ml of water and 1/3 tsp of salt. This will help you replace the fluid and electrolytes you use.
It is important to replace what you lose during exercise.
A quick tip is to measure your body weight prior to a game or training and then again after you are finished. You will need to replace 16-24 ounces for every pound you lose. This can usually be 2-3 pounds or 48 ounces.
Chocolate milk is an excellent choice, as it also helps replace carbohydrates and protein that you have used.
A bit of planning and proper hydration helps you recover well and maximize your performance in sport!
Randy Goodman is a Clinical Specialist in Sports Physiotherapy, having worked with professional athletes in the NHL, NBA, NFL, NCAA and CIS, as well as consulting with many of Canada’s national teams. You can contact him at www.GoodmanSportsPhysio.ca.