Hydrate to Win

Shawn M. Cole, M.D., M.H.A.

March 9, 2020

One of the most important investments an athlete can make in his or her fitness journey that give the best chance of success and high performance in the training center or on the field, court, or ice, is both free and readily available……water.  Despite showing up to a session or practice ready to give 110% physical effort, athletes often overlook the importance of complete preparation, which also includes arriving properly fueled and ready to perform at their very best.  This is simply not possible without making sure one both shows up and stays well-hydrated.  Unfortunately, up to 75% of athletes who arrive to a training session, game, or match are dehydrated before the event, which prevents peak performance before the event even begins!  Understanding this from a team sports perspective, imagine the advantages if your whole team shows up to the big game hydrated while only 5 out of your opponents’ 20-player roster drinks enough water before the match.  You are winning before the event starts!  Additionally, most athletes fail to drink enough water (or sports beverages – more to come in another blog) in order to prevent dehydration during the event, which leads to fatigue, reduced speed and power, and stamina.

The human body is made up of approximately 60-70% of water and even slight loss of water prevents the ability of the body to function at its best.  It is estimated that a training session or game involving moderate to vigorous intensity for one hour can lead to loss of an average of 2% of one’s body weight through water losses in the form of sweating and rapid breathing.  This amounts to 2 lbs of water loss for a 100 lb athlete or 4lbs of water for a 200 lb athlete.  This is preventable and must be avoided to minimize fatigue, to allow the body to regulate its own temperature, and to promote strength and endurance. Here are some general guidelines to optimize fluid intake:

  • Weigh in before and after a training session, especially during hot weather. Aim to weigh the same after the event.
  • Do not restrict fluids before, during or after the event.
  • Do not rely on thirst as an indicator that you need to drink more fluids.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages or energy drinks before a training session or game because of their ability to contribute to fluid losses.
  • Prior to exercise drink approximately 400 to 600 mL (14 to 22 oz) of water or sports drink 2 to 3 hours before the start of the training session or event.
  • During exercise drink 6 to 10 oz of fluid every 15 to 20 min.
  • After exercise drink (16 to 24 oz) of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
  • Be sure to replace electrolytes (sodium, potassium) after the event to reduce fatigue and muscle soreness.

Understanding and applying the basic principles of hydration are essential to achieving peak performance and to reaching your personal and team goals.  Prepare, execute, win!