The Importance of Hydration
Drinking enough water each day is critically important for everyone - but it’s especially critical for athletes who regularly submit their bodies to punishing conditions.
In addition to regulating body temperature, decreasing muscle soreness, lubricating joints, preventing colds and infections, and helping internal organs function properly, hydration also improves mood, cognition, and sleep quality.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the importance of hydration for athletes, how ample hydration impacts the body, and what athletes can do to get more hydration in their daily lives.
Let’s dive in.
5 Hydration Facts You Should Know
Did you know that water makes up about 60% of your body’s weight? While people can survive for weeks without food, going without water can kill a person in days. With that in mind, it’s clear that hydration is essential to life and athletic performance.
Here are a few other facts you should know about ample hydration:
- Water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. While water is an excellent drink of choice for anyone looking to hydrate, you can also hydrate your body with water-dense foods like watermelon, carrots, celery, and beets. Other drinks, like milk, fruit juice, coconut water, and tea are great sources of hydration, as well. Steer clear of sweetened beverages (like soda) and caffeinated beverages like coffee, which will dehydrate the body.
- There’s no one-size-fits-all rule. The old hydration standard of 8 glasses a day doesn’t fit everyone. In recent years, medical professionals have begun to realize that different people have different hydration needs. According to The Institute of Medicine, adequate water intake for men is roughly 13 cups (3 liters) a day, while women need about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of liquid a day.
- Urine color can tell you a lot. When it comes to assessing your hydration, the color of your urine is a critical indicator. When your body is well-hydrated, urine will be pale in color. If you need a visual prompt, refer to this handy chart.
- You can over-hydrate. Overhydration is called hyponatremia – and, although it’s rare, it can be dangerous. Hyponatremia occurs when the amount of sodium in the blood is lower than normal. This imbalance is often the result of an underlying medical condition.
- Athletes don’t need sports drinks to hydrate. Contrary to popular belief (and marketing), sports drinks aren’t essential to help athletes rehydrate. According to experts, people who work out moderately for an hour or less can easily hydrate with plain water. If you’re participating in an hour or more of vigorous exercise each day, though, you may want to add a sports drink to replenish electrolyte levels.
How to Assess Your Hydration
Curious whether you’re getting enough water to support your athletic performance? Worried that overtraining has led to dehydration? Here are a few ways to test:
- Measure your body weight (naked) before and after exercise. According to Runner’s World, “sweat loss in ounces is equal to body weight in pounds before exercise, minus body weight after exercise. 16 ounces (2 cups) of water should be consumed for every pound that has been lost.”
- Test skin snapback. Your skin is a great benchmark of your overall hydration levels. Check it for signs of dehydration including roughness and flaking, cracking, or flushing and redness.
- Track urine frequency. Urine frequency has been used for years as a hydration indicator. the more fluid you consume, the more hydrated you will be, and the more you will urinate. When you’re dehydrated, you urinate less frequently.
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