Coaches – How to keep your athletes hydrated in summer heat

Improving your Athletes Hydration Status

We have all heard from coaches, “Drink lots of water!” As the summer heat swelters, competitive sports players encounter a high heat index and hot conditions. These conditions make athletes targets for dehydration and heat illness. Water is good for us, but too much actually dilutes your body’s sodium levels low enough to increase other medical problems including muscle cramping.  It takes more than having water coolers around to keep athletes safe and performing at optimal levels.

Summary and quick tips

  • Target a 10 – 12 cups of hydration daily either of water or equivalent hydrating beverages.
  • Have weigh-ins before and after exercise if possible. This will help an athlete know how much fluid intake is necessary for them and if they are falling behind or drinking too much.
  • Educate athletes on urine color. (Lighter is better hydrated)
  • Modify practice in hot, humid conditions. Adjust practice time, amount or intensity. Allow frequent hydration breaks and consider equipment modification.
  • Encourage athletes to drink fluids before, during and after exercise. Water is encouraged unless the exercise is greater than 60 minutes. You may consider sports drinks if activity is greater than 60 minutes.
  • Keeping fluids cold will encourage more hydration by the athletes.

Which beverages are best?

Beverages that count toward daily water intake:

  • BEST: water, fitness waters, sport beverages, club soda, mineral water, and flavored water
  • VERY GOOD: 100% fruit juices, lemonade, tomato and vegetable juices, low fat milGOOD: raw fruits and vegetables
  • SO-SO: soft drinks (diet soft drinks in moderation), decaffeinated coffee, yogurt
  • NOT SO HELPFUL: caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda) and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics and do not count toward water intake

Pre-Sport Hydration Guidelines:

Athletes need to pay special attention to their pre-game beverage choices, as fluids may need to last for hours during longer fitness.

Select pre-fitness beverages that are:

• Quickly and comfortably digested; beware that some smoothies and higher protein sports drinks may be too heavy in your gastrointestinal tract before fitness.

Examples of pre-game beverages are sports drinks and fitness waters.

Hydration tips before play:

• Limit/avoid caffeinated beverages (iced tea, coffee, cola), especially right before and after fitness. These do not hydrate as well and act as diuretics.

• The night before, fill and chill squeeze bottles or sports jugs and bring them to each practice and game. Have a minimum of two liters available.

• Consume enough fluids throughout the day so urine is a light or pale yellow color before starting a match.

• Drink 17 to 20 oz of fluid within two hours pre-game and as close to match time as you can tolerate (for example, on the way to your game or practice pre-hydrate)

Fluid Needs during Play:

To keep performing at your best, drink 7 to 10 oz of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes.

Favor sports drinks to enhance rehydration. Sports drinks contain carbohydrate and electrolytes, like sodium. Consuming carbohydrate during play has been shown to help players maintain more power and accuracy in long game play. For example, Gatorade contains 14 g carbohydrate per 8 oz, which is quickly absorbed and used by working muscles. Sodium replacement is also important since a significant amount of sodium can be lost through sweat during play. Recent research also shows that sports players can loose a great deal of sodium during long play in the heat, some male players losing up to 2 grams of sodium in a single session!

Post-Sport Hydration:

Drink fluids that replenish muscle energy stores and electrolytes lost in competition. Here are some guidelines to follow:

• Eat or drink carbohydrates as soon as possible, preferably within the first 30 minutes of a game. Begin by drinking a sports drink or fitness water as you walk off the field.

• Replace 150 percent of body weight lost in sweat, or at least 20 oz per pound of sweat weight loss, within two hours of a match. A simple way to check this is to check your body weight both before and after a game or practice to note the body weight change.

• Additionally consider lightly salting foods and consuming beverages that are natural sodium sources such as tomato juice

Top ten ways to enhance your hydration status when playing sports:

  1. Drink 1 – 2 cups of water-based beverages (water, juice, milk) with every meal and snack. Target a 10 – 12 cup base minimum of these hydrating beverages per day.
  2. If you consume caffeinated beverages, alternate non-caffeinated beverages between caffeinated beverages throughout the day.
  3. Limit caffeinated beverage intake after a certain time of day (for example, 1 pm).
  4. Set a reasonable limit on coffee intake (for instance, 1 to 2 cups per day).
  5. Substitute decaffeinated tea, soda, or coffee for some of your caffeinated drinks.
  6. Increase your food group sources of water and better meet your training diet food group needs through increasing vegetable/fruit juice and milk consumption (2 cups of vegetable/fruit juice = minimum 4 vegetables or fruit servings per day; 2 cups milk = minimum dairy intake per day).
  7. Try calorie-free fruit flavored waters such as Schweppes or Fruit2O.
  8. Dilute juices with water.
  9. If you drink alcohol, consider alternating plain club soda with alcoholic beverages.
  10. Keep a water bottle with you at all times (freeze overnight so it stays cool on hot summer days.

As you play sports in intense heat, remember in order to stay well conditioned, hydrate and fuel appropriately. When you follow these guidelines, you will be a powerful to any opponent. Best luck with this summer season!

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