Preventing Heat-Related Sports Injuries through Hydration
Adequate water consumption is the most important factor in sports nutrition. Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. You cannot make or store water so it must be replaced after it is eliminated through sweat and urine. Everyone should drink at least eight cups of water a day and athletes should drink even more. Fluid consumption is important before, during and after sports to stay hydrated and to avoid overheating.
To stay well-hydrated, athletes should drink 2.5 liters of water throughout the day, as well as 24 ounces two hours before exercise, another 8 to 16 ounces 15 minutes before the exercise begins, and 4 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes during a workout.
Many people wonder whether they should be drinking plain water or sports drinks. Cool water is best for workouts or events that last one hour or less. Sports drinks containing 6 to 10 percent carbohydrates are good for longer, more intense workouts or sports because they replenish blood sugar, help with fatigue and enhance performance. Most sports drinks should be diluted with water by 50 percent.
Intense workouts cause the body to lose fluid and electrolytes, which are essential to healthy function. The best way to avoid dehydration and its side effects (cramps, weakness, low performance) is to drink water even if you are not thirsty. Further exertion while dehydrated may lead to heat exhaustion (vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and dizziness). In extreme cases, heat stroke may occur. Symptoms include high body temperature, severe headache, hot dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion, seizures and coma.
Focus on hydration throughout your workout. You won't start feeling thirsty until you have already lost about 2 percent of body weight, and at this point, if you stop drinking water once your thirst is satisfied, you will get only about half the amount you need.
Following are some tips for staying hydrated from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
- Drink small amounts of water frequently, rather than large amounts less often.
- Drink cold beverages to cool your core body temperature and reduce sweating.
- Weigh yourself after working out, and drink two to three cups of water for every pound lost. Your body weight should be back to normal before the next workout.
- Pay attention to the amount and color of your urine. You should excrete a large volume that is nearly colorless. Small amounts of urine or dark yellow-colored urine can indicate dehydration.