Forget about every other question that you have about
nutrition until youíve figured out how to stay hydrated. Being smart about
water intake can separate good performance from great performance.
You are mostly water. In fact, if you took the water out
of a 180-pound lean body, there would be about 55 pounds left. Because your
muscles, your brain, your blood and sweat are mostly water, your body
doesnít work like it should when it doesnít have enough water. You donít
think as clearly, your endurance is compromised and your heart works harder.
When youíre severely dehydrated, sweating stops and your
body overheats. The result-fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and collapse, or
worse. In fact, every year, deaths in young healthy athletes are linked to
Sweat It Out
Sometimes you donít even see sweat, like when you swim.
But you sweat whenever your body heats up from working out. Sweat is your
bodyís cooling system. Evaporation of sweat from your skin cools you down.
When you sweat, you lose water from your body and that
water must be replaced. Replacing the water takes a plan.
Dehydration: A shortage of water in the body.
Donít Rely on Thirst
You might be thinking, "Whatís the big deal? Wonít
drinking when Iím thirsty guarantee that Iím hydrated?" Surprisingly, no.
During exercise, for reasons not totally understood, humans donít drink
enough to prevent dehydration. You need to drink before youíre thirsty and
keep drinking after you no longer feel thirsty.
Drink It In
Forget about the old rule of drinking 8 glasses per day.
You probably need more than that on most days. Counting how many glasses you
drink is only one way of keeping track of what you need. A better way of
making sure youíre hydrated is to check your body weight before and after
practice. For accuracy, weigh in minimal clothing if thereís privacy, and
afterwards, change out of the sweaty clothing before you weigh. The weight
lost during practice or competition is not fat, itís water loss.
One pint of water weighs one pound. To replace the water,
drink one pint of fluid for every pound you lost. (One pint = 16 ounces =
500 ml = Ĺ liter). It is critical to replace the water loss as quickly as
possible. Before your next workout, your weight should be back up to normal.
If you canít check your weight, pay attention to your
body for signs of dehydration. Your mouth should not be dry. Your urine
should be lemon-colored most of the time.
More than one episode of dark yellow urine is a warning
sign that you donít have much reserve. (Exception: Vitamin supplements can
turn your urine yellow-orange, even if you are hydrated.) Loss of appetite,
stomachaches, and muscle cramps can be other warning signals of dehydration.
Drink before, during and after working out. Drink a pint
or so of fluid a few hours before exercise. This will help make sure you are
hydrated and give you enough time to urinate if you need to beforehand.
Keep drinking during exercise. And donít worry about
getting too much fluid. If youíre sweating, your body needs a constant
supply. Your stomach might gurgle, but your body will absorb and use the
fluid. Feeling sick and cramping have been blamed on too much water when in
fact, stomachaches and muscle cramps are usually signs of not drinking
Drinking fluids after workouts is extremely important.
Even when drinking fluids during a workout, many athletes become dehydrated.
Athletes working out in the heat for several hours can lose 10 pounds.
Thatís more than a gallon of water.
Hydration Tip: Fill your water bottle and keep it in plain sight so you
remember to drink it.
What Should I Drink?
Your body needs water. But remember water comes in all
sizes, shapes and colors. Milk is 90% water. Juice and most soft drinks are
89% water, sport drinks are 94% water, and even pizza is 50% water. And it
all counts. Nearly everything that passes your lips provides water for your
body, and in fact, research shows that most hydration happens at meals from
the combination of food and beverages.
Research also shows that we tend to drink more if the
fluid is flavored and if a variety of fluids are available.
Keys to Hydration
When you have figured out how to stay hydrated,
especially when you sweat heavily, you have accomplished the single most
important performance-enhancing aspect of nutrition.
Water is your most important nutrient.