By Brittney Lang MS, ATC
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine
www.MUSCHealth.org/sports

Summer workouts for athletes have started and with temperatures and humidity rising daily as we get closer to summer we have to be aware of making sure our athletes are properly hydrated. Athletes should have access to water during any weights and conditioning sessions and given breaks during sessions as needed. It is also necessary to educate athletes on the importance of hydrating well before and after physical activity to maintain good health.

An athlete needs to be properly hydrated if they want to be able to perform at their highest level. Physical activity, heat, and humidity increase the amount of fluid your body needs to stay hydrated.  Below are recommendations for how much fluid one should be drinking to maintain adequate levels.

Everyday
Drink adequate fluids. Roughly 1 ml for every calorie consumed. For example, if you eat 4000 calories, drink 4000 ml of fluids (4 L).

2 to 3 hours before training/competition
7 oz of fluid

Immediately prior to training/competition
6 to 12 oz of fluid

Every 15 to 20 minutes during training/competition
6 to 12 oz of fluid

Exercise longer than one hour
Be sure to include a carbohydrate source in the form of solid, gel or sports drinks. Consume roughly 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. 600 to 1200 ml of a sports drink will fulfill this need.

After exercise 
16 to 24 oz for every pound lost from the training session or competition.

It is good practice to do a pre and post workout weight check to make sure the athlete has been consuming enough during the workout; and to see if they have lost any weight and determine how much extra they may have to replenish.

Staying well hydrated will help decrease the risk of heat illnesses such as muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke by helping with body temperature regulation and cooling efficiently.

Dehydration

The body loses fluid through the skin as sweat, through the lungs while breathing, and through urination. When the body loses more fluids than is being taken in to replace what is lost we have dehydration. There are some common signs and symptoms of dehydration to look out for during training:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramping
  • Low output of urine/dark coloration

If an athlete is experiencing any of these symptoms, they should stop what they are doing and drink fluids. An athlete should not completely rely on their thirst mechanism to tell them to drink. If the athlete feels thirsty, it is too late. The body has begun to feel the effects from dehydration and their performance will suffer along with their body. One should not wait that long.

Over hydration

While dehydration is more common in athletes, there is a very real possibility of over hydration. This is when the athlete intakes more water than the body has released i.e through sweat. This can lead to low sodium levels also known as hyponatremia and cause very severe health problems if the athlete does not seek the necessary help right away. Drinking some sport drinks during longer or intense workout sessions can help with keeping sodium levels up and eliminate the possibility of hyponatremia during training.

Hydration is one of the most important things an athlete can do to maintain mental and physical performance. Educating the athlete on proper hydration techniques is the best way for them to stay healthy.