Athletes seeking peak performance are constantly looking for the best ways to care for their bodies. One of these is making sure you are always fully hydrated, not just when you are playing your sport.
“You can never start hydration too early,” explained Evan Werk, MD, Banner Health sports medicine and family medicine physician. “A constant and consistent level of hydration will improve performance."
In fact, experts say the athlete who is fully hydrated will perform better than the athlete who is dehydrated. While specific recommendations for hydration can vary based on every athlete, their level of activity and the environment in which they are playing, Banner’s sports medicine specialists suggest the following tips:
- Drink 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise, and another 20 ounces 30 minutes before.
- Drink 3 liters of fluid a day whether or not you are exercising.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Thirst is a late sign of dehydration.
“Athletes should also weigh themselves before and after exercise,” said Dr. Werk. “It’s important to replace all of the water weight you lose during exercise to prevent dehydration.”
Other hydration tips include limiting caffeine and other diuretics. If you choose to drink a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage, follow it with twice as many ounces of water to replace fluids eliminated by the caffeine.
Pay attention to the temperature. It’s easier to become dehydrated in a hot climate. Dehydration in warm temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses and exercise-associated collapse.
Water vs. Sports Drinks
Water is the best fluid to drink before exercise and if you will be active for less than one hour. However, if you plan to exercise for longer you should consider a sports drink with carbohydrates and sodium before and during exercise.
“Sports drinks are scientifically sound,” said Dr. Werk. “They contain carbohydrates for energy and salt to help you hold on to water. Just be sure the drink does not have too much sugar.”
Banner’s sports medicine specialists recommend all athletes appropriately hydrate and eat foods that contain healthy carbohydrates and salt. Remember, hydration is performance enhancing. It will give you an advantage and help you reach your peak performance.
Learn more about hydration and other sports medicine topics from our sports medicine specialists.