Regional Director, USA Sport Group.
The importance of hydration is huge in every day life, let alone during sporting activities where the body is exposed to much higher levels of intensity. Consuming less than adequate fluids before, during and after a sporting activity can lead to what's known as dehydration.
As an athlete sweats, which is the body's cooling system, fluid needs to be replaced in order for the body's heat management system to function correctly. If fluids are not replaced then dehydration will occur, which will include a variety of symptoms.
The most common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, increased fatigue, increased body temperatures and up to 30% loss of performance. The loss of performance is the crucial part of course; this leads to lack of concentration, endurance, muscular strength and general productivity. A 30% loss in a sporting activity could be crucial, as well as dangerous.
As far as dehydration goes, prevention is the key and by following a schedule for hydration by replacing the fluids lost during sporting activities, the chances of becoming dehydrated are greatly reduced. Athletes can become dehydrated for a number of reasons; the event maybe in excess of 45 minutes long, heat maybe intense, or the athlete doesn't become thirsty, the later being the most important.
The most common cause of dehydration is not drinking, due to not feeling thirsty, different health conditions or states of mind during sports activities. It is not viable to rely solely on thirst. So of course, the question is; how do we stay hydrated and maintain our performance levels?
The best way to stay hydrated is to follow a schedule for hydrating your body, which will date back to a few hours before your sporting activity, but needs to be followed;
- Begin drinking fluids on a regular basis, 2-3 hours before your sporting activity.
- Drink 250ml 15 minutes before exercise.
- Drink 250ml every 15 minutes during exercise.