Kenny Powers knows, but does he know about hydration?
Hydration. Your ticket to success as an athlete. Before, during and after practice/athletic events your mind should be on hydration and hydration should be on your mind, yo. Yes, climate makes a difference. Yes, type of sport (endurance versus strength) makes a difference. Still, hydration is important for all athletes.
So, you’re now thinking, crap- I better gulp a metric ton of water before, during and after practice.
False. Let’s break it down.
Drinking around 2-3L at least 4 hours prior to practice will have you set preemtively, and don’t forget that snack before that keeps your guts happy (low fiber carb buddy + low-fat protein buddy, and I say buddy so don’t eat something unfamiliar to you). An example would be a banana and low-fat yogurt.
Carbs, fluid and electrolytes are your pals during activity, especially when the activity is over several hours. 6-to-12 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes is key. You also need carbohydrate to maintain blood glucose (energy) and depending on the type of athletics, to avoid exhausting glycogen stores (energy storage). This is why drinks like Gatorade exist. Gatorade and other sports drinks contain 6-8% carbohydrate and are generally recommended for sports lasting longer than 1 hour. Without your buddies you run the risk of heat stroke, muscle cramps, mental confusion and poor performance.
Chances are you’re gonna sweat, and a lot (especially in hot climates), so fluid loss and electrolyte loss go hand-in-hand, sodium, potassium and chloride are super important for fluid balance. This is one reason why water is simply not enough for lengthy practices/athletic events.
There’s also such a thing as overhydration, which results in further depletion and imbalance of electrolytes can have serious complications. Hyponatremia (low serum sodium) may be evidenced by swelling of the hands, feeling light-headed and nausea, and basically results in a dilution of the blood. Though serious complications are rare (we’ve seen it in a few marathon runners) it’s still an important consideration.
Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition recommends drinking 16 to 24 oz of fluid for every pound (0.5 kg) lost during exercise. Here’s the key to figuring this out: weigh yourself in the am before exercise (a few times to get an average) then after exercise to see how much you’ve lost. If you lose >2% of your body weight, it’s likely you’re dehydrated.
Electrolyte and glycogen store replenishment is still of concern as well. Having a small meal that includes carbohydrate, perhaps a salty snack, will help regenerate your balance. Lean protein is also recommended for muscle repair at least a few hours post-activity.
All this water talk makes me have to pee
In all seriousness, hydration isn’t as simple as chugging water like no one’s business. Also, sports drinks aren’t the only option. Don’t like Gatorade or Powerade? Make your own electrolyte + carbohydrate containing beverage. Add orange, lemon and lime wedges, cucumber, mint and a hint of salt to water. Like coconut water? There’s another option. Coconut water is the new hype in the hydration realm, since it contains potassium, as well as the other essential electrolytes- though not every is super stoked on the taste.
Keep up the good work, you’ve now reached level hydration expert.