By Brittney Bearden, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD
Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes high temperatures. It’s important for athletes to stay hydrated, but athletes that compete outdoors in the summer months especially need to be aware of their hydration status. Dehydration can significantly decrease athletic performance by decreasing muscle power, mental function and motor skills. Keep these tips in mind to help maintain proper hydration:
Carry a water bottle throughout the day. Have a (filled) water bottle with you at school or work and drink from it throughout the course of the day. Water isn’t the only thing that provides hydration — beverages such as milk, smoothies, juice and tea also contribute. But, be aware of the extra calories contained in each beverage and choose appropriately. As activity approaches, drink 16-20 oz. of fluid 2-4 hours before exercise and 5-10 oz. of fluid 10-15 minutes before. During exercise, aim to drink 5-10 oz. of fluid every 15-20 minutes.
Incorporate sports drinks. Sports drinks provide energy through carbohydrates and help to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Athletes should begin to incorporate sports drinks into their hydration schedule after one hour of exercise, or sooner for salty sweaters or those with a high sweat rate. Limit sports drink consumption to times around and during exercise, as it’s designed for activity, not for periods of physical inactivity.
Monitor urine color. Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration status. Urine color should be pale yellow, not dark yellow. Another method of monitoring hydration status is to weigh in before and after practice and drink 16-24 oz. of fluid for every pound lost.
Eat fruits and vegetables. Beverages aren’t the only things that count towards hydration. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content and provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. A few that top the list are cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries, all of which are comprised of more than 90-percent water.