Arguably, water has the greatest impact on athletic performance than any other nutrient which is why ensuring that you are well hydrated is so important. Research shows that even slight dehydration, as little as 2%, can have a strong negative influence on energy levels. As you exercise, water and body salts are lost in sweat. Failure to replace these losses can result in premature fatigue, increased risk for injury, increased recovery time and in more serious cases, heat stroke.
What should I drink?
Throughout the day, the best choices to keep you hydrated are water, low fat milk and real fruit juice. During exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, water is best. For intense exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes, sports drinks (such as Gatorade or Powerade) are useful since they provide fluid and help replace the energy that is burnt during exercise.
A word of caution: Although energy drinks (such as Red Bull, Full Throttle and Rock Star) are marketed as a quick energy boost, they can pose a real threat to both athletic performance and health. As a result, all athletes, regardless of age, should avoid their use.
How much should I drink?
Fluid needs differ depending on your age, body size, how hard you are exercising, how long you are exercising and how much you sweat. In the past, there was very specific fluid volume guidelines developed for athletes. However, these guidelines are no longer encouraged because they are not individual enough to meet all athletes’ needs. A Registered Dietitian who specializes in Sports Nutrition can help you build a hydration plan that will work for you.
How do I know if I am drinking enough?
Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration status. Once you are thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated. Although there are more complex ways of measuring if you are drinking enough, the easiest way to tell is by monitoring your urine frequency and color. You should be urinating about every 2 to 4 hours and your urine should be pale yellow in color.
Over-hydrated Well hydrated Dehydrated