Some athletes may underestimate the importance of being well hydrated. Adequate hydration is linked to performance and well-being. There are lots of liquids to fill your cup, but water is still the most important to include. During heavy training and long workouts, sports drinks are a good choice as well.
Sports drinks are formulated to replace sodium and electrolyte losses, and provide some carbohydrate and fluid. They are lower in sugar that fruit juices or soft drinks. Still, you can include other beverages into your diet. Water is always a good choice, so include at least 4 glasses a day. Other drinks such as diluted fruit juice, coffee, or tea are fine as well. Caffeine is a natural diuretic, but caffeine has also been shown to enhance performance, so there is no reason to eliminate it from your diet if you enjoy it. Don’t go overboard though. Skip the heavily caffeinated “energy drinks” and enjoy your cup of coffee or tea or a cola. Limit them to two to three servings or less a day.
Also, when training or preparing for a competition, you should limit alcohol. A glass of beer or wine with dinner is fine, but don’t binge since alcohol will dehydrate you. You can celebrate with a beer after the race, and then follow it up with lots of water.
Follow these guidelines for hydration before and during and after exercise:
- Drink 15-20 ounces 3-4 hours before, and then drink 8-10 ounces 15 minutes before activity
- Drink 8-10 ounces every 15 minutes during activity.
- Endurance rides or runs (longer than 90 minutes): Drink 8-10 ounces of a sport’s drink every 15-30 minutes.
- Monitor urine color and frequency. Large amounts of pale yellow urine mean you are hydrated. Dark urine means you are dehydrated.
- Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replenish that fluid loss: Drink 20 ounces for every pound lost.
©Rosanne Rust, MS RD, LDN