Hydration can be the difference between winning and losing, between 1st and last, between suck and success.
It blows my mind how many athletes don’t do this very simple but very necessary preparation before training and competitions. I have had athletes that cramp up in games and this pretty much makes them useless to the team. Don’t be that guy.
Your body is made mostly of water. If hydration levels drop even a little it can have devastating effects on your performance. As little as a 2% reduction of body weight from sweat loss and perspiration can impair the body’s ability to cope with outside stimulus. Without proper fluid levels we can’t regulate our bodies core temperature, remove waste products (lactic acid), deliver oxygen to the working muscles, absorb nutrients, grow muscles, or even think properly. The key is to stay ahead of the hydration curve.
I am sure we are all familiar with Electrolytes. Every sports drink on the planet basically screams electrolyte at you as you walk past them at the 7-Eleven. But what are they really? Electrolytes are responsible for conducting electrical impulses between nerves and muscles. If there is an imbalance, muscle spasms or cramps can result. Sodium is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. That is why your favorite hat gets a white salt stain on it after a few practices out in the sun. When choosing an electrolyte replacement drink, be sure it has a fair amount of sodium. Coconut water tries to sell itself as an excellent natural electrolyte replacement drink. While I agree that it is delicious and does contain a fair amount of potassium, magnesium, and calcium; it is quite low in sodium (65mg) when compared to something like Gatorade (110mg). Considering that 1 liter of sweat can easily be lost in an hour of intense activity and can contain on the upper end 1500mg of sodium, coconut water may not get the job done.
- <1 hour: water alone is adequate
- >1 hour: include 300-700 mg sodium per liter of fluid
- >3 hours: 500-700 mg sodium per liter of fluid
Most of the sports drinks out there will also contain a fair amount of carbohydrates in the form of various types of sugar. But what do you really need? Generally speaking, athletes don’t need a source of carbohydrates for an event lasting less than an hour. Replenishing those glycogen stores after a short bout of activity can be done with real food and a "sports drink" is not necessary. For situations that last more than an hour a 6-8% carbohydrate solution is generally recommended. Anything over 8% will draw fluids into the gut for digestion and anything less than 6% will most likely not be enough to keep up with the loss during intense activity lasting over an hour.
So how do you know where your hydration stacks up throughout the day? Take a look at the below visual for a little help:
So the moral of the story is - Stay ahead of the hydration curve by planning ahead, being prepared, and not letting yourself or your athletes become dehydrated in the first place. You have probably heard that if you are thirsty, it is too late. Well it is true. Once thirst happens you will be playing catchup from then on. Stay hydrated.