If you are a human being, water is an important piece of the puzzle for your body to perform. Here are 5 myths you may have heard about hydration....
As I'm sure you've heard many times, as an athlete you need to focus more on hydration and nutrition than the average Joe. If you are playing a sport, you need to prep your body not only with practicing certain plays and positions, but also with water and food. I promise you, if you focus on fueling your body properly and performance, you will not only feel better in daily life but you will also notice an increase in energy and your ability to last during practice and games. As I said in the article about warming up, even if you aren't an athlete but are working out and training, hydration and nutrition are still 100% important in determining the progress you make and the level of performance you can put forth.
The goal of hydration with water and other fluids is to keep dehydration at bay, maintain performance and also prevent fatigue. By hydrating properly before, during, and after training and competition, you will be able to maintain strength, speed, endurance, but most importantly you will also decrease your risk for injury. Fluids around and during training and competition for athletes should include electrolytes, but should not have a high sugar content. When we talk about electrolytes, here are the main ones athletes need to have a balance of according to Stack.com:
Sodium: A.k.a. salt. The body uses it to control blood pressure and volume. It's necessary for muscles to work properly.
Chloride: Another important element for keeping body fluids balanced. An essential part of the stomach's digestive process.
Potassium: Helps muscles and nerves communicate. Works with sodium to keep fluid levels balanced in the body's cells.
Calcium: You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral. Your muscles, blood vessels and nervous system wouldn't work without it.
Magnesium: Vital for the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Also aids in transporting energy throughout the body.
Water should still be the main focus throughout the day. Read through the following sections to learn more about hydration.
Little Tips To Master Hydration
Hydration should not be complicated. Sip water throughout the day, start adding in electrolytes a couple hours before and during training or competition, then go back to sipping water when you're done. During training or competition, take in about 7 to 10 ounces of water about every 20 minutes. This would be about three mouthfuls of water. Simple as that!
How to Prevent Muscle Cramping
Some athletes are prone to muscle cramping whether they intake an adequate amount of fluid or not. Proper hydration can help this issue, but adding a little sodium into your diet can also help with cramping. You can easily add a pinch of salt to your water as well as some fruit for flavoring to create your own sports beverage to enjoy before and during practice or competition. No need to chug sugary drinks just because of added electrolytes. You can also add Nuun tablets to your water or buy Pedialyte and drink that instead (it's not just for hangovers).
5 Hydration Myths
- It's Impossible To Overdose On Water: While you most likely won't overdose on water, the bigger concern for athletes is diluting the electrolyte levels in your body. Your kidneys work as a filtration system for your body, but if you drink a high level of water, this could result in hyponatremia which means you've drowned your system with so much water that the electrolyte levels in your blood are low. This could result in fatigue and underperformance. Make sure to drink throughout the day, but focus on fluids with electrolytes around training and competition and sipping on small amounts of water throughout the day.
- Thirst Means You're Already Dehydrated: Referring back to hyponatremia mentioned above, if you drink too much water you will dilute the electrolytes in your blood. Whereas is you don't drink enough there will also be negative side effects. So what do we do to know if we're drinking enough or not? Paying attention to your thirst as well as the color of your urine will do the trick. If you're thirsty, drink. If not, you can take little sips here and there but don't force yourself to drink just because you think you need a gallon a day. As far as your urine goes, you don't need it to run completely clear, but as long as it's a lighter yellow and not dark there is no need to worry.
- Only Water Hydrates You: Anything with water in it will hydrate you. That means teas, coffee and even fruits and vegetables. Just make sure you aren't intaking too much caffeine and sugar with the tea and coffee.
- Gatorade and Powerade Over Water For Athletes: There is so much sugar and additives in "sports" drink that counteract the health benefits and hydration they claim to have. For games and training lasting longer than an hour, electrolytes will need to be replenished, but for the most part, a few big gulps of water every 20 min will do the trick. If you do happen to have a very intense training session or back to back games, mixing a few ounces of a sports drink and water together could be beneficial and help replenish glycogen stores. Glycogen is the stored carbohydrates in the liver and muscles that help provide energy. If blood glycogen levels drop, nausea and fatigue can occur. Remember, gage what you need based off of the intensity and length of your training session or competition. (See above about Nuun Tablets or Pedialyte as well)
- You Should Increase Your Water Intake Before Training Or Competition: Chugging down a bottle of water before you perform will do nothing to hydrate you (spreading out your water intake throughout the day is best) but may leave your stomach a little weighed down from all the excess fluid. Instead focus on hydration everyday and sipping water regularly throughout the day and adding in electrolytes around training times and competition.
Avoid high levels of caffeine whether it be from coffee, teas, soda, or pre-workout formulas. Caffeine will not affect your hydration levels much, but caffeine in excessive levels can lead to heart palpitations and a feeling of anxiety and jitters. When you are already about to raise your heart rate with training or competition, caffeine can have negative side effects that as an athlete you will want to avoid.