We’ve all experienced it at some point when working out or on the field – fatigue sets in, your mouth feels dry and your legs are heavy. These are all common signs of dehydration.
When an athlete works out, body fluid is lost through sweat. If the fluid lost through sweat is not replaced, dehydration and early fatigue are unavoidable. Losing even 2% of body fluids (less than 3.5 pounds in a 180-pound athlete) can impair performance by increasing fatigue and affecting cognitive skills. Since many athletes lose between 5-8 pounds of sweat during a game, it’s easy for them to become dehydrated if they don’t drink enough to replace what is lost in sweat.
Dehydration can be prevented
When to drink: Drink before you get thirsty. By the time you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated, so it’s important to drink at regular intervals – especially when it is hot outside.
What to drink: Research shows that a lightly flavored beverage with a small amount of sodium encourages people to drink enough to stay hydrated. The combination of flavor and electrolytes in a sports drink like Gatorade provides one of the best choices to help you stay properly hydrated.
What not to drink: During activity, avoid drinks with high sugar content, alcohol or carbonation because:
• Alcohol can dehydrate the body
• Fruit juices, soft drinks and energy drinks are high in sugar, which slows fluid absorption by the body
Dr. Lawrence Spriet is a leading sports nutrition researcher with the University of Guelph and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. More information on sports drinks and hydration is available at www.gssiweb.org