Hydration Needs for Athletes
Hydration Needs for Athletes
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Because there is wide variability in sweat rates, losses and hydration levels of individuals, it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids athletes should consume.
Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences. There are, however, two simple methods of estimating adequate hydration:
- Monitoring urine volume output and color. A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.
- Weighing yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need.
How Athletes Lose Water
- High altitude. Exercising at altitude increases your fluid losses and therefore increases you fluid needs.
- Temperature. Exercising in the heat increases you fluid losses through sweating and exercise in the cold can impair you ability to recognize fluid losses and increase fluid lost through respiration. In both cases it is important to hydrate.
- Sweating. Some athletes sweat more than others. If you sweat a lot you are at greater risk for dehydration. Again, weigh yourself before and after exercise to judge sweat loss.
- Exercise Duration and Intensity. Exercising for hours (endurance sports) means you need to drink more and more frequently to avoid dehydration.
To find the correct balance of fluids for exercise, the American College Of Sports Medicine suggests that “individuals should develop customized fluid replacement programs that prevent excessive (greater than 2 percent body weight reductions from baseline body weight) dehydration. The routine measurement of pre- and post-exercise body weights is useful for determining sweat rates and customized fluid replacement programs. Consumption of beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates can help sustain fluid-electrolyte balance and exercise performance.”
According to the Institute of Medicine the need for carbohydrate and electrolytes replacement during exercise depends on exercise intensity, duration, weather and individual differences in sweat rates. [They write, "fluid replacement beverages might contain ~20–30 meqILj1 sodium (chloride as the anion), ~2–5 meqILj1 potassium and ~5–10% carbohydrate."] Sodium and potassium are to help replace sweat electrolyte losses, and sodium also helps to stimulate thirst. Carbohydrate provides energy for exercise over 60-90 minutes. This can also be provided through energy gels, bars, and other foods.