Are you drinking enough water? – An Essential Sportsman’s Guide

Every sportsman ‘now’ knows that proper hydration is paramount to avoiding impaired physical performance.

But what is proper hydration and how do I ensure I don’t dehydrate?

What is the best liquid to drink before, during and after exercise? How might drinking the right drink effect my performance positively?

Before we go into these questions, we’ll first get some background on hydration – as recently as below the 1940s it was actually thought that hydration wasn’t important in exercise and was even considered a disadvantage.

This is true – but only IF you don’t know when, how and what to drink.

Yeah sure, you have been actively exercising for a long time and you know this stuff right?

I have been a coach for decades, also a type 1 diabetic, but doing this one thing right makes a massive difference to sports performance.

So, what is hydration?

Hydration is our bodies ability to correctly manage fluids internally for normal body function, being dehydrated means the lack of sufficient fluid to do this.

Before exercise you MUST ensure that you have been drinking water periodically over the previous 24hours.

If your urine is clear or very lightly yellow then that is an indication of good hydration, the darker the urine the more dehydrated.

Good Tip 1 – have a bottle of water with you and sip often at all times.

Can a small amount of dehydration be that bad?

JUST A 5% DROP IN HYDRATION CAN CAUSE UPTO 30% LOSS IN PERFORMANCE – if you are thirsty it usually means that you are dehydrated and at point of exercise it WILL EFFECT YOUR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE.

The bodies ability to carry necessary nutrients and glucose to the muscles and other organs will be impaired, effecting the twitch time (speed of movement) in muscles, the heart pumping ability, lung abilities, directly influencing aerobic fitness.

Cognitive function (reaction time and decision making), joint lubrication (free movement)… Actually nearly every major function is reduced by dehydration – so you decide can you compete with this things effecting you?

To give you an idea of the huge importance, (give or take a few days for different body compositions), a human in a temperate climate (not too hot or cold) will survive around 3 weeks without food, BUT no more that 1 week without water.

Modern diets have unusually and often unacceptably high sodium content (salt), sodium is key in body function and ABSORPTION OF WATER into the cells.

During intense exercise like say Ice Hockey then water should be replaced but not excessively as too much can cause stomach cramps.

Good Tip 2 – Between shifts, during breaks, ALWAYS make sure to drink a little.

I get headaches after exercise why is this?

Ruling out anything more serious, often it is dehydration BUT not solely lack of drink but lack of sodium lost in sweat. Simple drinking water doesn’t replace this.

Good Tip 3 – Add a pinch of salt to water and then some squash to mask the taste – just a pinch, not loads.

The salt increases absorption of the water into the cells, which often this lack of water absorption causes headaches.

What is the best drink to have during exercise?

Sport drink advertisers bamboozle us and sell their products with phrases like Hypertonic, Isotonic – you’re left wondering ‘what does this mean?’

Hypertonic – (Hyper = above) – drinks like Lucozade Sport, Lucozade, Coke, Pepsi, Orange Juice, natural juice, and other sugary drinks.

All these Hypertonic drinks have over 6g carbohydrate per 100ml of liquid and are not as efficient at hydration due to higher glucose and lower absorption of fluid, they do however increase glucose levels as a “possible” positive side effect.

Isotonic – isotonic labels drinks and drinks that have close to 6g carbs per 100ml, these are considered to be the best balance of liquid to glucose replenishment but liquid can be absorbed more slowly than hypotonic (especially with sodium).

Hypotonic – (Hypo = below) – drinks such as water, low calorie squash, drinks that have <5g of carbs per 100ml of fluid. If you have properly eaten prior and also hydrated then as mentioned hypotonic drinks are often the fastest replacement coupled with a little salt added will be the fastest replacement of exercise fluid loss.

Conclusion – Treat hydration as seriously and sensibly as you would your fitness training, as without proper management of this before and during your chosen sport can seriously effect your performance. Make sure to drink throughout the day and to keep up your fluids after every exercise with Hypotonic drinks to stay completely hydrated.

Remember the tips:

Tip 1: Always have a bottle of water to sip at all times.

Tip 2: Between shifts/breaks at work, always make sure to drink a little.

Tip 3: To make a healthy and hydrating after sports drink, add a pinch of salt to water and then some squash to mask the taste – just a pinch, not loads.

Please share this post with your family, club, team mates or friends, comment below with any questions and we’ll definitely get back to you.

Back to blog