Staying properly hydrated during exercise is extremely important for many reasons. If your body’s not getting enough water or liquids during the game, your performance mightn’t be the only thing to suffer.
Water is essential to the body to maintain blood volume, regulate temperature and allow muscles to work. You lose fluids during exercise from sweating and the moisture on your breath.
You don’t have to be running an ultra marathon on a very hot day to become dehydrated. Any exercise where you break a sweat, even lightly, can cause dehydration if you don’t replace the lost water. Although exercising at a high intensity in humid, warm or hot temperatures will mean you lose water faster.
You can’t perform at your best if you are not properly hydrated. Dehydration can affect physical function as well as reducing reaction time due to impaired mental ability. This could result in loss of coordination, problems making quick decisions (like where to kick the soccer ball) and increased perception of exertion. Ever had a huge game of netball, footy or basketball and played your hardest, only to have the coach ask why you were hanging back? This could have been due to dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration
Symptoms of dehydration can vary from mild to severe. The more dehydrated you become the more extreme the symptoms which can occur. Signs you are not getting enough water can include:
- dry mouth
- feeling thirsty
- little or no urination
- dark yellow or amber coloured urine
- confusion or irritability
- muscle cramps
Issues can occur when you become dehydrated during, as well as after, exercise until you regain the lost liquids.
How to stay hydrated during exercise
- Make sure you start your training, exercise or game well hydrated.
- Schedule regular drink breaks during exercise, organise water stations or carry adequate liquids with you.
- Assist your liquid intake by including foods high in water during breaks, before or after exercise. eg – watermelon, oranges, strawberries, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, rock melon or honeydew melon or pineapple.
- Little and often is better than gulping down large amounts of water in one go.
- If you are exercising hard for more than an hour sports drinks or a natural alternative (see below) can help you perform for longer.
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. If you are thirsty, or have a dry mouth, you’re already showing signs of dehydration.
Replenish electrolytes naturally
Sports drinks promotions tell us that we need their drinks to give our body’s essential electrolytes and carbohydrates lost during exercise. It is true that these two things will help your body hydrate and replenish energy after sport, however commercial sports drinks are not the only way to achieve this.
Sports drinks are full of refined sugar (much the same as a soft drink), artificial colours and flavours. Here are several easy ways to get electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride) and carbohydrates naturally.
- Juice – Celery + Apple + Lemon – Naturally occurring electrolytes in this juice come from the celery, apple and lemon.
- Mix – Sea salt + Baking soda + Lemon + Maple syrup + Water – Baking soda reduces the body’s acidity and provides a source of sodium bicarbonate.
- Shake – Raw coconut water + Chia seeds – Raw coconut water contains electrolytes and potassium and is low in sugar. The chia seeds contain omega 3 fats, protein and fibre for energy.
- Blend – Frozen banana + Almond milk + Kale – Banana and almonds provide potassium and magnesium to help regulate fluid stores. Kale is an excellent source of magnesium and calcium.
Don’t let dehydration stop you performing at your best. Remember to stay hydrated all day and drink extra fluid during and after exercise.