Adequate hydration is important for good health and optimal sports performance. With up to 55-60% of our bodies composed of water, it is involved in numerous important functions including (but not limited to) cell metabolism, regulation of body temperature and cognitive function. Notably, in sporting events/activity lasting longer than 40-60 minutes, consuming water along with food (i.e., carbohydrates – your primary energy source) is known to benefit performance.
The weather in Florida is known for being consistently hot and humid, especially during the summer months. When you are both active and spending time outdoors there is an increased risk of becoming dehydrated. In particular, if you have traveled here from a cooler climate, be cognizant of increasing your fluid intake accordingly.
When you are exercising in the heat, fluid and electrolytes (mostly sodium) are lost primarily as sweat. As the temperature and humidity increase so will your fluid needs. The general signs and symptoms of dehydration are usually easily recognized:
- Fatigue, weakness, loss of coordination
- Muscle cramps
Besides not drinking enough, there are other factors that can influence your fluid levels:
- Poor fitness level
- Little sleep/recovery
- Improper clothing (dark colors, fabrics and design leading to heat retention)
If you recognize the early signs and symptoms of dehydration in yourself or others, there are a few steps to take immediately to alleviate the problem:
- Seek assistance from a coach/member of staff
- Move to a cooler area and rest – if outdoors seek a shaded area or better still retreat to an air-conditioned area
- Ensure access to cold water or an electrolyte replacement drink
- Consider a cold compress if overheated
- As a guide, 13-16-year olds need 54-64 fluid ounces (1.6-1.9 L) of total fluid each day (from food and fluids). Healthy adults require more per day: Men 15.5 cups/3.7 L and 11.5 cups/2.7 L for women. Remember, exercise will increase this amount.
- Consume fluid (preferably water) before exercising – 5-10ml per kg bodyweight in water prior to exercise (i.e., 120 lbs. or 55kg = 275-550ml or 8-16 fluid oz.).
- Aim to start your practice/tournament in a well-hydrated state – check your urine color (ideally it should be pale yellow).
- Be prepared – bring adequate water with you to the course/practice range. Especially at a tournament, there may not always be opportunities for purchasing water when you need it (e.g., ninth hole).
- Be aware, thirst may not be a good indicator of how dehydrated you are.
- Consider including sodium in foods/fluids as it will help you to retain fluid during exercise.
- Water is the number one choice for fluid replacement in most instances.
- Consume small volumes of fluid frequently throughout the exercise/round/practice. Aim for 3-8 fluid ounces every 15-20 minutes (130-250ml). Recommendations are usually to consume enough fluid to minimize loss of body mass (1-2% loss) through sweating.
- Avoid over-drinking. A condition called Hyponatremia (low blood sodium level) is the risk of consuming too much water, with symptoms shockingly similar to dehydration.
- There may be a case for sports drinks in certain circumstances when a source of carbohydrates and electrolytes (primarily sodium) are required (e.g., when access to food is limited).
- Cold drinks may help to reduce core body temperature during exercise in the heat and increase the tendency to consume more fluid. Flavored waters may also increase consumption.
- Avoid energy drinks at all costs!
- Drink MORE than you lose! The goal is to drink to 150% of the fluid lost during exercise (based on weight). This accounts for the obligatory urinary losses.
- Consume a beverage and/or small meal – it will provide the carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) necessary for recovery. The salt (sodium) in a beverage/meal helps you to retain fluid and stimulate thirst.
The optimal strategy for fluid intake for young athletes will vary based on a number of factors including climatic conditions, the opportunity to eat/drink, gastrointestinal comfort and an individual’s own physiology and biochemistry. In conjunction with your fitness coaches at BGGA, develop your own customized fluid replacement strategy and evaluate it in training before attempting it during a tournament.
Did YOU drink enough water today?