Hydration: How to Hydrate for Optimal Performance

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Water makes up more than half your body weight. Therefore it is incredibly important to keep to the body. Water has a wide variety of functions in the body such as lubricating your joints and transporting oxygen to your working muscles. When you participate in exercise, your body generates up to 20 times the heat it creates at rest. In order to get rid of the massive amount of heat, your body sweats it mostly all out. That means you are losing a ton of fluid that needs to be replaced! The rate that you sweat helps determine how much water you need to replenish your body. This is a very individualized process. Sweat rates vary between athletes, so there isn’t a one-size fits all fluid recommendation for optimal performance. In order to have optimal performance, you have to drink the right amount of fluids to fit your needs along with the daily requirements. You want to avoid dehydration since it has a significantly negative impact on athletic performance.

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There are a few ways that you can tell if you are dehydrated. Signs and symptoms vary based on how dehydrated you are. One of the easiest ways to tell if you are mild to moderately dehydrated is through decreased urine output. If you aren’t going to the bathroom frequently then that is a potential sign of dehydration. A few more mild to moderate dehydration signs are dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and feeling tired. For severe dehydration, you should definitely be heading to the hospital because at this point your dehydration is a medical emergency. These signs and symptoms include extreme thirst, little to no urination, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing. You want to make sure you never get to this point since it can be detrimental to your exercise performance and due to the fact that it is extremely dangerous to the body.

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One of the other easiest ways to tell if you are dehydrated is through monitoring your urine. You want to first look at the color of your urine. The ideal color would be clear or light straw colored. The darker the color of your urine, the more water you need to drink. After you look at the color of the urine, you want to look at the amount that you are putting out. The goal is to have a large output every time you are going to the bathroom. Also make sure you are going to the bathroom frequently. If all three of these things are happening then you are well hydrated!

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This is a general guide for how to properly hydrate yourself throughout the day including your exercise activity. The Institute of Medicine recommends for men to have 3.7 liters per day while it suggests for women to have 2.7 liters. For the equivalent in fluid ounces, men should have 125 oz and women should have 94 oz. If you are an athlete that has a green gatorade bottle, that is equal to about 3 or 4 of those a day. It seems like a large amount, but if you carry a water bottle around with you all day it can easily be done! Just like you carb load before activity, you have to drink water before activity starts. It is good to be prepared ahead of time. At least 2 hours prior, you need to be consuming 16-20 oz, which is about 1/2 of a 32 oz water bottle or a little more. Once time gets closer to exercise or an event, you want to have another 8-16 oz. That is only 1 to 2 cups of water, which isn’t that much if you think about it!

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During activity it is very important to stay hydrated because this will minimize your sweat losses post exercise. A key goal is to have 5 to 10 oz of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. A guide to an oz is about 1 gulp from your water bottle is about the same as 1 oz. If you are playing in a competition and won’t be able to take water breaks like you do during workouts, a good tip is to take advantage of timeouts. During timeout, make sure you are taking at least 5 gulps from your water bottle. The more gulps you get the better off you are. Another thing to take into consideration is the length of your workout or competition. If you are exercising longer than 60 minutes, you want to consume a sports drink like Gatorade for half of your fluids since it contains carbohydrates to give you an energy boost. After activity is the time to replenish. You want to have 20-24 oz for every pound of body weight that you lost from exercising. In order to figure this out, you can weigh yourself before a game or workout then weigh yourself after to see how much weight of body fluids you lost from sweating. Don’t wait too long to fill up on water!

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Here are a few tips to remember when thinking about hydration as an athlete or regular exerciser! A common tip to utilize is carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day that way you are unconsciously taking sips and filling up when you run out. Another tip to really hone in on how much water you need during exercise is weighing yourself before and after exercise. This way you can determine your sweat rate and figure out how much fluid to have. If you are losing 2% of your body weight, you can have severe negative impacts on your athletic performance, so don’t let yourself get to this point! Avoiding that is easy by following the guide on drinking water during activity shown above. There are other ways to get fluids along with drinking your water. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables since they are made of mostly water. Not only will you be getting additional water, but you will also fill up on vitamins and minerals to keep the body healthy!

After this, I hope all my readers are carrying around water bottles with them and staying hydrated! Bottoms up.


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