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Often overlooked, a key component of athletic performance is proper hydration. Even a small reduction (i.e., 5%) in body fluids can cause a decrease in endurance, reaction time and/or concentration. As an athlete, knowing the proper way to hydrate can help you to maintain optimal levels of performance.

How much do I need to drink?

The American College of Sports Medicine has set guidelines regarding hydration and sports. Pre-exercise fluid intake should be 16 ounces or 2 cups of fluid, 2 hours prior to exercising. Fluid intake during exercise should be 5 to 10 ounces or 1 cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.

Post-exercise fluid intake should be no less than 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes for a duration of 2 hours after exercising, or 4 cups of fluid per each pound of body weight loss. The level of activity, environmental conditions and rate of sweat all need to be considered when determining pre-exercise, mid-exercise and post-exercise hydration.

What should I drink?

Research has shown both water and sport drinks to be excellent sources for maintaining proper hydration. In exercise sessions lasting less than sixty minutes, water is just as effective as sport drinks in sustaining performance levels. However, certain sport drinks containing 6-8% carbohydrates have been shown to be more effective than water in maintaining performance levels for sessions lasting longer than 60 minutes. In addition, sport drinks containing 6-8% carbohydrates tend to be less upsetting to the stomach and are quickly absorbed by your body.

How do I know if I am well hydrated?

An easy way to determine if you are in need of fluids is to check the color of your urine. If the color is pale yellow or clear, then you are well hydrated. If the color is darker than pale yellow, then you're probably dehydrated. Do not rely solely on thirst as an indicator of dehydration – thirst is an emergency warning signal. By the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. And surprisingly, once you've quenched your thirst, you may not be fully re-hydrated.

By maintaining proper levels of hydration, you can improve performance and decrease the chance for injury. Pre-exercise, mid-exercise and post-exercise fluid consumption is an easy addition to make your exercise sessions more beneficial.

For more information about hydration, other sports medicine topics or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at 414-219-7776 or 800-219-7776.