You know you need to drink water, but how much water does an athlete need to drink? Hydration is an individualized concept, as everyone needs different amounts. Water is involved in every process in our bodies and it heavily affects performance. That is why it is important to include it!
In this blog, I will walk through different ways to make sure you are getting adequate water, the correct amount of electrolytes, and what you can do to improve your hydration.
Why Do I Need Water?
Water is the most important nutrient in our diets. It is essential for all your body’s functions. Without enough of it, our bodies struggle to function properly and efficiently. Without water, we wouldn’t be able to live!
Core Body Temperature Regulation
Water helps to regulate body temperature, which is super important when playing a sport, especially outdoors. Sweating helps us to cool down and not feel fatigued as quickly. Without proper hydration, you may feel overworked and fatigued quicker than you would if you had enough water to drink.
Proper hydration also improves your circulation. Without adequate water intake, your muscles are at risk for cramping and injury because they can’t get enough blood flowing through them while you are exercising. This also can induce fatigue sooner than you want to.
You may not realize it, but you may be moodier if you aren’t hydrated properly. Hydration heavily impacts our cognitive function, impacting our mood and focus on the field.
You can see why proper hydration is so important! Even being slightly dehydrated will decrease overall performance, so here is how you can stay hydrated.
How much do I need?
Hydration needs vary between athletes and how much you sweat. A general recommendation for athletes is 96 oz. for women and 128 oz. for males. When you are an athlete, you also need to replenish the fluid you lost in exercise. This can be different depending on the temperature and climate of where you play, how long you are exercising for, and how well-hydrated you were before you started.
There are products out there that can test your sweat rate, but there are some general guidelines that will help you stay hydrated that I will share later in the blog.
How do I know I am getting enough?
The best way to know you are adequately hydrated without knowing your exact sweat rate is through your urine color. If your urine is darker yellow to brown, you need to hydrate! Look for a pale yellow color, as clear might be a sign of overhydration.
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration is common in athletes simply because your thirst mechanism isn’t enough when you are sweating significant amounts during the day. Some common signs of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, confusion, cramps, and soreness. Your body won’t be able to perform its best or adequately recover if you aren’t hydrating properly.
When do I need it?
There is a way to make sure you are hydrating properly throughout the day, especially when you have practice or games. Here is how you want to break it down.
Throughout the Day
When looking at how much water you need in a day, you want to begin with the general recommendations above (96 oz for female athletes, 128 oz for male athletes), and then add on what you lose during training. Here are some ways to know how much you would need if you added in your losses from exercise.
It is important that you are hydrated before you exercise, and simply chugging water right before is not enough! There are two times before a workout that you need hydration, and they are:
2-3 hours before: 16-32 oz of water
1 hour before: 8 oz electrolyte drink
Looking at amounts in fluid ounces might be hard to imagine, especially if you are drinking out of a big water bottle. A simple comparison is to think of one gulp of water to be equal to 1 fluid ounce.
It is important to be intentional with your hydration during exercise to make sure you are getting enough throughout your practice or game. A gold standard to follow is 8 oz of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. If you plan to be moving around for over an hour, a sports drink is encouraged to replenish carbohydrates that you are losing during exercise.
After exercise, the general rule is to replenish 150% of your losses during exercise, or to put it simply, 24 ounces for every pound lost. This can be determined by how much weight you lose during training. If you lose 2 pounds during training, you will want to drink 48 ounces of fluid.
What About Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are important to include in your daily routine, especially when you are sweating significant amounts. Electrolytes are minerals that are involved in processes in our body that help our basic functions and help with our recovery. Our sweat consists of mostly water, sodium, and chloride so it is important that those are included in our hydration routine.
I recommend that you consume electrolytes before exercise to prepare your body for exercise and to increase your electrolyte levels in your body before you start working out. You might not need to drink electrolyte beverages to replenish all your electrolyte needs after, eating salty foods post-workout can have a similar effect. If you are exercising for a period longer than an hour, having a sports beverage will help incorporate electrolytes as well as carbohydrates during exercise.
Hydration is important for many reasons but as an athlete, it can affect your performance negatively if you aren’t intentional about it.
Hydration needs are individualized, but general recommendations are 96 oz. for female athletes and 128 oz. for male athletes. You can follow these guidelines as a baseline and then add on any losses with training. You can tell if you are not getting enough if your urine is a darker color or if you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration.
Electrolytes are important to include in training, but buying a sports beverage isn’t always necessary if you can replace your electrolytes by eating salty foods post-workout. If you are exercising for over an hour, then a sports drink is a good choice to receive exercise carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Hydration is so important! This is why it is something I emphasize among other post-workout topics with my athletes in the Performance Fueling Club (PFC). PFC is an online sports nutrition coaching program that helps athletes with flexible on-demand content and live nutrition coaching with a sports dietitian.
If you are looking for guidance on hydration, I encourage you to sign up today. We currently have open enrollment, and I would love to help support you in getting to your goals!