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Hydration for Athletes

Maintaining an appropriate fluid balance is very important for optimal performance, as a performance in an event is often impaired with progressive dehydration. Keeping oneself hydrated during an event is just not enough, before and after exercise hydration also plays an important role. Dehydration during an event can cause serious problems like heat stroke, head injury or even loss of coordination affecting the performance of an athlete. There are heavy water and electrolytes losses while performing an exercise via sweat and urine. To replenish these losses becomes very important as our body can not synthesize or store water that is important for almost all body functions.

Fluids and electrolyte balance

Even partial dehydration tends to compromise a performance, thus it is necessary to drink enough fluid and maintain fluid balance. Drink enough fluids (avoid dairy) or in other words water consumption should be around 17 ounces two hours before an exercise and additional 10-15 ounces within 15-30 minutes of an event. Through out competition it is important to remain hydrated, thus drink 6-10 ounces of water or diluted sports drink every 10-20 minutes. Electrolyte replacement drinks can be consumed after one hour of exercising. For intense activity lasting longer than an hour, beverages containing carbohydrates in the concentration of 4-8 % are recommended. Although plain water is considered appropriate for activities lasting less than an hour, 4-8% carbohydrate beverages are also suitable. It is important to replace the electrolytes lost in perspiration, 0.5-0.7 g/l of sodium is recommended for activity lasting longer than an hour.

This will also help to increase the palatability of sports drinks and in turn increase fluid consumption. Hyponatremia occurs when large amounts of water are consumed that leads to comparatively low levels of sodium in the blood. Athletes susceptible to hyponatremia also benefit from added sodium in the fluid replacement beverages. Adequate fluid consumption will also help the body to maintain temperature, blood circulation and proper muscle function. Some athletes may experience mild dehydration as the fluid intake post event is often forgotten. Adding sodium in the drink can be beneficial in 2 ways, maintains osmolarity and thus desire to drink and reduce diuresis that can occur when only plain water is ingested. Fluid consumption can be up to 150% of the weight lost during an exercise.

Fluid and electrolyte disturbances in an athlete can precipitate in the form of dehydration, hypohydration or hyponatremia, all of which can pose a life threat in their most severe forms. Although athletes experience dehydration more often than hypo hydration or hyponatremia, the latter two are not uncommon.
Submitted on January 16, 2014