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Hydration Athletics

Sports and Hydration: Importance, Guidance And Effects

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The last thing you would want to happen to yourself as a sportsperson is to pass out while performing due to dehydration. Isn’t it?

When it comes to exercise and sports, hydration is one of the most important and crucial aspects of your daily physical fitness. Yet, many professionals are unaware of its role and importance in the body.

Sports and hydration go hand in hand. Even the basic exercises and activities require your body to be in full swing and that is possible only if you are hydrated enough.

Hydration does not only mean gulping down simply water and assuming you are done. There is a dire need to understand the relationship between hydration and sports in detail.

Importance of hydration in sports

Thirst is not an accurate indicator of the state of hydration of the body nor your urge to drink only when you are thirsty. The need for hydration goes beyond that.

Fluid is extremely important for the sportspeople  to-

  • Maintain blood volume
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Maintain muscle function
  • Lubricate joints
  • Transport nutrients
  • Regulate temperature through sweating.

The body loses important salts, minerals (electrolytes), and fluid through sweat during intense exercising. Hydration is the key to replenishing all these lost fluids and electrolytes and maintaining balance.

An adequate fluid intake will –

  • Reduce the risk of heat stress
  • Maintain normal muscle function
  • Enhance performance 

Adequate liquid intake before, during, and after the activity is of utmost importance to prevent fatigue and keep the hustle going on.

Hydration: Your solution to reduce injury risks

Exercising leads to a rise in the core body temperature. In this condition, the body sweats to dissipate excess heat so it doesn’t overheat.

Staying hydrated helps in replacing all the water lost through sweating. Additionally, it also favors thermoregulation, preventing cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and preventing muscle fatigue. 

This leads to good muscle function and reduced muscle injury, especially in young sportspeople. Muscle fatigue is one of the key turndowns in sports and that’s why hydration is the hero here.

Effect of dehydration on sports performance

Research has shown that losing as little as 2% of total body weight can negatively affect athletic performance.

When you are exercising, your body is constantly losing its important minerals like sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, etc along with fluid, largely through sweat.

In the case of long duration, high-intensity exercises, this loss can prove fatal. Even in a state of mild dehydration, cells cannot function properly and there can be electrolyte and fluid imbalance.

This imbalance leads to-

  • Raised heart rate
  • Increased core temperature
  • Increased risk of heatstroke

Athletes can shed a surprising amount of body weight through fluid loss during sports performance due to sweating. This leads to loss of fluid and a rise in minerals left behind

The kidney and the heart struggle to regulate this balance due to a lower blood volume. More work is required to move blood around the body which ultimately causes fatigue and the sports performance declines considerably.

The right hydration strategies for sports

Every person’s body needs and fluid intake varies and thus self-analysis plays an important role here. You need to take control of your own specific fluid intake and carefully monitor your body’s signals.

Pre-sport hydration

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages right before your game. They act as diuretics and can lower down the electrolyte levels to considerable amounts.
  • Be well hydrated before entering the performance area. Consume enough fluids throughout the day so urine is a light or pale yellow color before starting a match.
  • If it’s a high-intensity performance, you can also switch to sports or energy drinks before your game but the caffeine and sugar content must be kept in check.

During sports hydration

  • Keep having hydration breaks during your performance.
  • Try to drink at least 4-6 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes in order to keep your muscles well-hydrated.
  • Prefer sports drinks for quick rehydration. These contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, etc. which are essential to maintain energy and accuracy for the game.

Post-sports hydration

  • Begin by drinking a sports drink as soon as you leave the court. (preferably within 30 minutes post the match)
  • For precise fluid consumption, measure your weight before and after exercise. For each pound of water weight, you lose, have 20 ounces of fluid.
  • If you consume beverages, choose the ones with natural electrolyte sources like coconut water, tomato juice (mainly for sodium), smoothies, etc.

Some quick tips and tricks for hydration

  • In your diet, switch to consuming more fruits that are rich in electrolytes and water like bananas, dates, strawberries, melons, peaches, etc.
  • Monitor your weight regularly before and after exercise and make up for the fluid loss accordingly.
  • Keep a check on the color of your urine. When properly hydrated, urine should be pale yellow in color. Dark urine is a sign of dehydration.
  • If you are even mildly thirsty, hop on for a sip or two of any of the fluids or simply water. Holding onto thirst is not beneficial for the body.
  • Pinching the skin may sound funny, but it is an easy way to check dehydration. Simply pinch the skin on the back of your hand holding it for a few seconds. If the skin takes a while to return to its normal position, you may be dehydrated.

Best liquids for hydration

  • Water

Cannot stress this enough, but water is your ultimate energy booster. It is, as evident, the best hydration source, easily accessible and affordable. Water has all the essential electrolytes which can be replenished and restore fluid balance.

  • Lemon water

Another very rich source of Vitamin C (due to the lemons) and essential electrolytes, lemon water is a great choice for rehydration, be it for beginners or professional sportspeople.

  • Coconut water

Undoubtedly, one of the best hydrating drinks, coconut water is low in calories and rich in sodium and potassium, the key electrolytes for fluid balance inside the body. It enhances strength and boosts energy.

  • Herbal teas

Chamomile tea, rose tea, hibiscus tea, etc. are included in herbal teas, making up for a  natural and caffeine-free source of hydration. They also keep the nerves and mind relaxed.

  • Milk

Containing a natural blend of good quality carbs, proteins, and sodium, milk actually serves as a better hydration drink than water. It helps the body in retaining fluids and can be experimented with to liven up the taste as well.

  • Fruit-infused water

Fruit juices may not be the best hydrating drinks but fruit-infused water calls for good hydration. It contains added fruits in water which dilutes sugar content and enhances the hydration capacity.

  • Sports drinks

These commercial drinks are a rich source of electrolytes and other beneficial health ingredients and are a quick source of rehydration and serve as effective energy boosters before, during, or after exercise.

Bottom line

Hydration is an elaborate process and function in the human body which is of prime importance. 

In sports, the authority of proper hydration increases a lot more according to the demand of your exercise performance. Thus, smart and adequate hydration is what makes the hustle worth it!

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