Hydrate Your Way To Athletic Performance

The life of an athlete is intense, demanding and disciplined. Every new day is a new chance to challenge one’s own potential and power. Early mornings, strenuous training schedules and a strict diet are part of an athlete’s normal day.

Exercise can be draining as much as it is exciting and dehydration is a challenge that almost all sportspersons face at some point in their career. It is the result of loss of body fluids or insufficient water intake, and it is identified by dark yellow colored urine. Dehydration in athletes causes muscle cramps, fatigue, headache, dizziness and dry mouth. This in turn results in poor concentration, confusion, low energy and performance that is below par.

While staying well-hydrated is the solution, the trick is in knowing when and how much water to drink before, during and after training sessions.

Here are five tips that help athletes hydrate.

1. Ensure that your water intake is as recommended

  • 2-3 hours before training, drink 500ml of water.
  • 30 minutes before training, drink 200ml of water.
  • During training, drink 200ml of water every 15 minutes.
  • 30 minutes after training, drink 200ml of water.
  • Depending on the strength of training, these volumes may vary to a little less or a little more.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables

  • Fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with water and contribute largely to fluid intake.
  • In addition to water, they provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Fruits like watermelon, orange, pineapple, cantaloupe and strawberry, and vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, carrots, celery and spinach provide a substantial supply of water.
  • Fruit juice is usually not recommended as it supplies a direct rush of sugar, as opposed to eating the fruit and gradually ingesting sugar.

3. Try infused water, coffee or tea for a change

  • Flavor-infusion makes normal dreary water into an exciting drink.
  • Infused water is made with slices of orange, lime, cucumber or ginger, or a few leaves of mint, basil or rosemary. It is refreshing by nature and is said to pep the mood, especially when exercising.
  • Tea and coffee are other alternatives, in moderation of course.

4. Include sports drinks

  • Training that goes beyond 90 minutes should be supplemented with an energizing sports drink.
  • It is necessary to choose a sports drink that has sodium, potassium and chloride, as these are vital electrolytes lost while sweating. It is important to replenish sufficient quantities of these vital salts.
  • The addition of magnesium in sports drinks helps relieve muscle tension, tightness and stiffness, and reduces the risk of muscle cramps. It aids in quicker muscle recovery after strenuous exercise.
  • It is important to also check the sugar content of the sports drink, as excessive sugar can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress, decreased exercise performance, decreased muscle function, cramping etc.
  • Sportspersons should also check the tonicity of sports drinks. Tonicity can be understood as the ability of a solution surrounding a cell to cause that cell to gain or lose water. The most effective sports drinks for rehydration are hypotonic, because their low tonicity drives absorption of fluid.

5. Do not overdo your water consumption

  • Over hydration in athletes is as troublesome as dehydration.
  • It is necessary to drink water when thirsty and at recommended intervals.
  • The intensity of exercise involved, the number of hours in training, the environment and weather and the amount of sweat secreted jointly determine how much water and electrolytes are required to replenish the body.
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