You can’t fail to notice the emphasis on hydration when we watch top class sport on television. Whether its on the close ups of the players during break of play, the sponsorship boards surrounding the pitches, the branded drinks bottles or the advert breaks its a war of companies trying to get you the choose their drink to keep you performing at your very best. But what are the best strategies to employ to stay on top of your hydration levels?
PRE-HYDRATION IS THE KEY
It is common for the coach and trainer to talk about re-hydration as being the key to staying at your best – replacing fluids that you’ve lost once you’ve begun exercise It has been shown that as little as a 2% loss in hydration levels can have a real negative impact, not only on physical performance but also on techniques and mental skills. However, for many athletes (especially those in a non-professional environment) for them to turn up at training in a semi-dehydrated state. So instead of beginning with that 100% full tank of fuel, they are already il-prepared for the session or match ahead.
Pre-hydration is the key here – allowing your body to take in the right amount of fluids throughout the 3-4 hours prior to the event. Athletes and players should aim to consume about 6mls of fluid for every kilogram of body weight in the 4 hours before. This should be done slowly so your body has time to ingest it properly. Adding a little ‘fruit concentrate’ can make the task a little easier, as well as adding a tiny amount of salt, or eating a slightly salty food with the drink.
IN-GAME HYDRATION STARTEGY
Getting your hands on fluids in the middle of the match is certainly not the easiest thing to achieve. You will largely have to rely on a break in play, possibly due to an injury or a substitution, but when you see the opportunity, you have to grab it fast. You don’t really have time to sip the drink but neither do you need to gulp it down. Take a quick couple of mouthfuls and then back on with the game.
Half time is an ideal situation to get your system back up to speed and here you should definitely have prepared your own drink to be consumed. Coaches should aim to provide drinks that are better than water alone; even adding fruit juices and a little salt to the drinks, in a similar fashion to pre-hydration, can help keep performances staying high all the way to the end of the match.
Depending on the length of the period completed, look to drink up to 150mls for every 15mins of exercise. Try and find out how long your break will be between periods and spread out this consumption over that period. Its also best to keep drinks at the ambient temperature as your body will have to work harder just to heat up ‘cold’ drinks just to allow them to be absorbed through the gut wall.
RE-HYDRATION AFTER EXERCISE
In exercise we sweat – even when we are playing in cold conditions. You may not feel it but heat transfer will have occurred as your body aims to keep your core temperature under control. Replacing the electrolytes lost through sweat is vital in post-exercise rehydration. The main electrolyte lost will be salt and that is why it is vital that your post-exercise fluids contain a small degree of salt within them. Most commercially produced sports drinks will contain a good balance of many of the common electrolytes that need replacing after a match or training session.
If players have the availability to weight themselves after the match, for every 1kg of weight lost, 1-1.5 l of fluid should be consumed. This should be done faster if the weight loss is higher, and should definitely avoid alcohol until, preferably, the pre-match weight is reached or at least 2 hours have passed.
TIPS AND THOUGHTS
Here are a number of tips that you could introduce to your team to help keep fluids topped-up!
- Everyone brings their own drink bottle to training – that way you can ensure they have thought about a good fluid regime rather than relying on you to think about it for them!
- Ensure that you give plenty of short breaks for drinks throughout the session. In matches encourage the players to drink during breaks in play (its also a good time to give important information!)
- Thirst is a sign that you are already getting thirsty. Try to avoid getting thirsty.
- Illness can quickly spread through a team because of shared drinks bottles. Either give each player their own bottle or encourage them to squeeze the juice into their mouths rather than sucking it out of the bottle lid!
- Before saying your bit after the match set aside time for rehydration only. Then you can have their complete focus. If they are de-hydrated, they won’t be listening as intently anyway!