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Athletes and Nutrition

How to Stay Hydrated

Athletes need water. Maintaining optimal hydration is important for promoting peak performance and preventing injury. Dehydration, defined as body weight loss of 1 percent or more because of fluid loss, can result in many symptoms, some of which are quite dangerous. These range from headache, fatigue, heat intolerance, and dark urine with a strong odor to more serious effects, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Maintaining adequate hydration can easily prevent these problems. Fluid needs increase with exercise, especially at high altitudes or when humidity is low or temperatures are high.

Hydration Tips

The following guidelines, endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, can help you stay hydrated:

  • Two hours before exercise: Drink 17 ounces (or about 2 cups) of fluid.
  • During exercise: Drink 4 to 8 ounces (or about 1/2 to 1 cup) of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • After exercise: Drink 16 to 20 ounces (or about 2 to 2–1/2 cups) of fluid for every pound lost during exercise; weighing yourself before and after exercise can help you determine your fluid loss.
  • Water is ideal as a fluid replacer, particularly for activities lasting less than one hour. For activities lasting more than 60 to 90 minutes, sports drinks containing carbohydrate or electrolytes may be useful both during and following exercise. Electrolytes and carbohydrate can also be easily ingested through food, in addition to water, following a training session or event.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Beverages containing caffeine, such as sodas, tea, and coffee, and those containing alcohol, such as wine, beer, or spirits, cause you to lose water. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics. Therefore, beverages containing these substances should not be counted toward your daily fluid intake.