All About Hydration

Staying well hydrated will help you perform at your best.  It can also help you stay cool, prevent you from getting tired too quickly, and prevent muscle cramps. How much fluid you need every day depends on your age, gender and activity level. Hot and humid weather can also increase your needs. To keep your body hydrated, children should aim for 6-8 cups per day and adults 8-12 cups per day.

Tips to staying hydrated:

  • Drink a glass of water when you wake up each morning or before you go to bed.
  • Carry a container of water with you throughout the day.
  • Drink a glass of water before eating your meals.
  • Make sure you have a drink with each meal, such as a glass of low fat milk, soy beverage or water.
  • Don’t ignore thirst. Drink water, milk or diluted 100% fruit juice when you feel thirsty.
  • Choose snacks that have high water content like high water containing foods like fruit, vegetables and yogurt.
  • Water is the best choice.

Water is the best fluid before being active

  • Drink 1- 2 cups at 4 hours before practice.
  • Drink another 1/2 cup to 1 cup 2 hours before practice, especially if your urine is dark yellow, or you haven’t gone pee.

During practice:

  • Sip water every 10-15 min.
  • Drink more if it is very hot and humid, or if you are sweating a lot.
  • Avoid energy drinks, pop and fruit juice, fruit drinks, iced tea/tea, coffee and pop. These are high in sugar and cannot be absorbed well leading to muscle cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.

After practice:

  • If you drank enough before and during practice, drink only when you’re thirsty for the rest of the day.
  • If you sweated a lot drink for 2 to 3 cups and use thirst as a guide.
  • If you don’t exercise intensely, choose water to rehydrate.

You could benefit from drinking a sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) if you

  • Exercise hard for at least an hour. E.g. several full-outs, extended tumbling, and long periods of conditioning, etc.
  • Sweat a lot.
  • Have salty sweat. One way to tell is that you’ll notice white powder on your face and clothes when you sweat.
  • Train or exercise in the heat and humidity.

What about other drinks?

  • Full strength 100% fruit juice, fruit drinks, pop or energy drinks are not recommended during exercise because they contain about double the amount of carbohydrate that is recommended. Also, the carbonation in pop and energy drinks could lead to bloating and discomfort and make it hard to drink enough to keep up with sweat losses.
  • Coffee, tea, and some pop contain caffeine and should be limited.  Adults should limit caffeine to 400 mg/d.  Children should limit to 45to 85 mg/d depending on age.
  • Sugary drinks like fruit juice, punch, pop, iced tea, etc. offer few nutrients and may lead to weight gain.  These should be limited as follows
  • Young children ½ cup per day
  • Adolescents and adults 1 cup per day

Please note: The section below is relevant to adolescents or adult athletes, or to parents of younger athletes who would like guidance.

Should I use an energy drink for hydration?

Energy drinks are not sports drinks. They are not recommended for hydration or as a replacement for sports drinks during intense exercise. In fact, taking them could hurt your performance. Most energy drinks contain either too much or too little sugar and are carbonated. They either contain over 11 g carbohydrate per 100 mL, which is hard to absorb, or are calorie-free and don’t provide any energy at all. The carbonation makes it harder to drink enough fluids and can cause stomach upset. In addition to caffeine, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana (source of caffeine), taurine, inosotil, glucuronolactone, and herbals such as ginseng or gingko biloba that may not be well tolerated. The immediate feeling of “energy” is most likely due to the effects of the caffeine.

Is coconut water better than a sports drink for hydration?

Coconut water has been promoted as an alternative to sports drinks for rehydration. Compared with sports drinks, coconut water does not have the right amount of carbohydrates or salts for optimal hydration during exercise. There is often too little sodium and more potassium than is recommended. There is nothing wrong with choosing coconut water for general hydration. However, a sports drink is a better choice for optimal hydration for intense exercise or competition.

How to pick a sports drink

  • Look for one that includes water as its first ingredient. Water is essential for rehydration.
  • Carbohydrates: 5 to 8 g carbohydrate per 100 mL.
  • Choose drinks that include a mixture of different carbohydrate sources such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltodextrin. These sugars are absorbed quickly during exercise to give you the energy that you need.
  • Sodium: 45 to 70 mg sodium per 100 mL. Sodium is lost through sweat and needs to be replaced. Having sodium in the drink also increases thirst, which helps you to drink more and stay hydrated.
  • Potassium: 8 to 20 mg potassium per 100 mL Potassium is also lost through sweat.
  • Flavour: improves taste which can help you drink more.
  • A good sports drink does not need to include added amino acids, oxygen, caffeine or herbal ingredients.

Information provided by Renée Gaudet, RD (reg #: 3590)

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