How to hydrate for your best athletic performance
Most people can stay hydrated by relying on thirst and drinking water as needed to maintain their fluid balance, but athletes and those spending time outside in the heat may struggle to keep up with daily fluid needs. Sports dietitian Lisa Money, RDN, explained how to hydrate most effectively to beat the heat during sports and other outdoor activities.
Four tips for better hydration
Tip #1: Hydrate right from the start. “At least two hours before practice,” said Money, “assess your level of thirst and whether or not your body needs hydration right then and there.” Try to drink at least 20 ounces of fluid up to an hour before practice, so it has time to clear your kidneys before activity begins.
Tip #2: Bring your own beverage. Arrive prepared with a water bottle filled with either water or a sports drink, especially if you have two-day practices. “Drinks cooled to about 50-59 degrees are best tolerated for re-hydrating and will keep you cool,” said Money. “One easy way to keep water cool is to freeze a few inches of water, then fill the rest of the way with fresh before you go. The slowly melting ice will keep everything else chilled.”
Tip #3: Know your sweat. “Everyone loses fluids and sodium at a different rate,” said Money. “Check your weight before and after practice under warm conditions to get an idea of how much you might lose.” Then, try to drink enough fluids to keep from losing 1% of your body weight in sweat. Another option might be to make a commitment to drink 20 ounces of water for every pound lost through sweat.
Tip #4: Check yourself for dehydration. Watch for excessive thirst, unusual fatigue, light-headedness or feeling dizzy, headache, dry mouth, infrequent urination or an unusually rapid heartbeat. All of these are signs of dehydration, and if you are experiencing any of them, be sure to get inside or to a cool spot quickly.
“In general, about half of children and teens will show signs of dehydration on any given hot and humid day due to lack of drinking water,” said Money. “So, when sports practice, marching band or any other outdoor activity starts up during the school year, it’s important to speak with your child and ensure they understand how important it is to hydrate and have what they need to keep their fluids balanced.”
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