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How to Stay Properly Hydrated This Summer

Posted 5/19/2016 by UHBlog

Do you know how much water and other fluids you should be drinking during sports? Ask us.

Hydration: The Benefits of Hydration and Risks of Dehydration

As an athlete you train and plan for your sport. Are you putting the same amount of thought into when and how you'll refuel on fluids?

You should be, says sports medicine specialist James Voos, MD.

“I recommend that anyone training for an endurance sport have thought out a plan of how they’ll get enough fluids,” he says. “If you’re running a long distance, you have to have a hydration plan. Will you loop around somewhere for water or fluids, or can a buddy meet you along the route? For a soccer team or other team sports, you want to cover hydration. The plan might be for one of the parents to be responsible for drinks.”

Athletes who go light on fluids and electrolytes face a number of risks, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor performance
  • Sore and/or aching muscles

“If you're dehydrated in the heat and humidity, it can lead to serious heat illnesses,” Dr. Voos says. For instance, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and in some cases, death.

“Your muscles have to have fluids and electrolytes to function properly,” he says. “It's like a car. If your tank is appropriately fueled, all your motor systems will work more efficiently.”

According to Dr. Voos, the rule of thumb is if your pee is clear, then you’re properly hydrated. If it's lemonade- or dark-colored, you're not getting the fluids you need.

“At the Cleveland Browns camp, we have a chart in the bathrooms that tells them what their urine should look like,” he says. “It may sound gross, but it's a barometer to be sure you're properly hydrated.”

Dr. Voos offers these four tips to ensure that you stay properly hydrated this summer:

  1. Start early – “Your hydration program needs to begin before you workout,” he says. He recommends drinking regular water or getting fluids from fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as melons or celery, which has the added benefit of providing you with nutrients.
    By the way, the iced coffee or energy drink you had in the morning isn't going to do the trick to hydrate you for your sport.
  2. Drink according to the weather – “The more hot and humid the weather is, the more frequent your water breaks should be,” Dr. Voos says.
    “Everybody’s water needs are a bit different,” he says. “You need to drink the amount that will keep your body functioning properly.”
  3. Gulp a sports drink – When it’s a warmer day or during your recovery phase, plan to drink a beverage that replenishes your electrolytes. If you’re not a fan of sports drinks, you can eat a salty snack, such as pretzels or pickles, to replace the sodium and potassium you’ve lost during your workout.
  4. Carry it with you – If you participate in an endurance sport, invest in portable fluids, such as hands-free portable backpacks or energy gels.
    “If you experience thirst during your workout, this means your body is already dehydrated,” Dr. Voos says.

James Voos, MD is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine director at University Hospitals, and head team physician for the Cleveland Browns. You can request an appointment with Dr. Voos or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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