A Professional Athlete's Guide to Proper Hydration
Many different studies show sports drinks can delay feelings of fatigue by replenishing carbohydrates, fluid and especially electrolytes (mainly sodium) when consumed before, during and after activities lasting longer than 30 minutes. Sports drinks are also beneficial during stop-and-go activities – such as basketball, swimming, tennis, soccer or hockey – to maintain fluid and energy levels for optimal athletic performance.
The usual guidelines given to instructors and coaches are that a person should drink approximately two liters of water per day. Exercise and heat increase the demand for fluids and electrolytes. As the body works harder, more heat is created, which needs to be lost. Approximately 75% of the energy used in exercise produces heat, with the remaining 25% going to useful work. A reduction of just 2% of fluid in our bodies can result in degraded performance by as much as 10-20%. This is a significant amount, especially for professional athletes. Consider for a moment the amount of effort that goes into training to improve by just 5%. All that, and more, can be lost by inadequate hydration.
When we aren’t properly hydrated we are more likely to experience cramps and headaches. Researchers believe that cramping is simply the result of muscle fatigue, which causes a breakdown in the communication between the central nervous system and the muscular system. Studies have shown muscles that cross two joints are more prone to cramping than muscles that cross only one joint. This is thought to be due to the increased workload on that muscle. But cramping, can be closely related to dehydration, or the lack of proper hydration, for sports and activities practitioners. Cramping can be caused by excessive sweat losses associated with a decreased level of electrolytes (specifically sodium). Electrolyte deficit-related muscle cramps are sometimes the first level associated with heat illness. The body has a complex system for cooling itself as the core temperature of the body begins to increase with exercise and an increase in the outdoor temperature. Basically, Electrolyte deficit-related cramps are a mild heat illness that, fortunately, can be easily treated. They are best described as intense muscle spasms and they usually develop after an active person or athlete has been exercising for a significant period of time and sweating excessively.
But with so many options for ‘hydration’, it seems that simply saying “stay hydrated” or “drink fluids” doesn’t really cut it anymore. The more people become active and practice sports or physical activities, the more that industry evolves in itself. Sports Nutrition has been on a constant and exponential growth being backed up by science and studies each and everyday now. Some might feel very overwhelmed by the amount of options on the market today in terms of supplements and replenishing drinks.
Hydration starts well before you train or enter an event. In the early morning, your body may be slightly dehydrated, so it is important to drink as soon as you get up. With the amount of options available today, it becomes very frustrating to pick something when you don’t quite understand what exactly you should be looking for in terms of recovery and rehydration.
One of the first and main things that should be considered is the duration of your activity.
30min or less: There is a little difference between drinking a sports drink and consuming water over the course of workouts that last less than half an hour. The time here shouldn't be the focus but the intensity of what you are going to be doing should be considered what to hydrate with.
More than half an hour: During those workouts where you are pushing it to the limit for closer to 60 minutes throw some carbohydrates and electrolytes into the water bottle. Aim for 30-60g per hour to help power your muscles and pump the brakes on fatigue. Additionally, sodium as part of your drinky mix is suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine as it can help promote fluid retention (so you’re not peeing every nine seconds).
Sports drinks are designed to help replenish sodium lost from sweat. If exercising longer than 60 minutes, consuming a few gulps of a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes can help to maintain energy and electrolyte levels, and sustain performance. With the growth and development of studies for athletic performance, professional athletes are finding more longevity in their careers as well as better performance on an everyday basis as they are better preparing for their workouts and games. They are also finding better ways of recovering after their activities based on major studies.
Dallas Cowboys’ Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson is a huge advocate for proper hydration before, during and after his workouts. “The countless reps, the late night workout sessions, the endless sprints, I can’t do any of that if I don’t keep myself properly hydrated,” says Cedrick. He chooses to Hydrate with Hydra-Guard Sports Drink, which is strategically formulated with the 5 major electrolytes to replace what you lose through sweat at optimum levels. Hydra-Guard Sports Drink is a great way of replenishing your essential electrolytes after a workout but keeping the calorie count low and consuming only 5g of natural sugars per bottle.
Minnesota Vikings’ Running Back Alexander Mattison emphasizes the importance of sports drinks like Hydra-Guard in his preparation to play at the NFL level. “I believe that staying Properly Hydrated with products such as Hydra-Guard is very important because as an athlete, it becomes part of a healthy lifestyle choice and it helps me to prevent any injuries,” says Alex.
World Championship finalist and American triple jump star Chris Carter also agrees that it is vital that we prepare our bodies in the best way possible before going into a summer workout session. “By consuming Sports Drinks such as Hydra-Guard before, during and after my workouts, I make sure I am ready to take it to the next level and be prepared for my workouts, and everyday lifestyle avoiding cramps and preparing me to perform at the highest level at all times,” says Chris.
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