Why is Hydration Important for Athletes?
Summer is here and the heat is unavoidable. Hydration is something most coaches are very good about promoting. However, some athletes, even those who play indoor sports or winter sports, fall victim to dehydration.
Water is a macronutrient that supports metabolism, plays a big role in digestion and helps in thermoregulation (how your body regulates its temperature). It also helps lubricate joints and maintain proper cell and organ function.
Water has a big role in how our brains function. An athlete’s uncharacteristic loss of coordination could be a sign of dehydration. Have you experienced a time when dehydration was as impactful on the mental side of your athletes as it was on the physical?
Plain and simple, it can kill you. You could die. Fact. What starts with thirst, dry mouth, headache, and fatigue can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, elevated heart rate, and unconsciousness. Dehydration is not something you want to play with.
Our thirst mechanism is simply our body’s way of telling us to drink water. Athletes should be in the habit of drinking more than their thirst demands. We don’t want their bellies sloshing, but if they hydrate properly this won’t be an issue. Once you’re thirsty you’re playing catch up. Proper hydration starts the day before the activity, not an hour before.
So how much water do we need? The exact amount depends on several factors including age, gender, and activity level, but 2-3 liters a day is a good estimation. Drinking too much is rare, you’re more likely to dehydrate than over-hydrate. Athletes need to prioritize taking in enough water and they probably need your reminder to make that happen.
A small portion of your water intake comes from food and other non-water drinks. That doesn’t mean eat a bunch of watermelon. Simply consider that a proper nutritional regimen, including fruits and vegetables, contributes to your daily water intake. Complex carbohydrates help us retain the water we drink, so having some carbs in the diet is also important for proper hydration.
The bottom line is, be diligent and disciplined about keeping hydration a priority. We have to put back in what our body sweats out and uses up. Make sure your athletes understand how water affects how they feel and how they perform.