Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hydration for soccer - six simple tips to help beat the heat!

How do you make sure your players are properly hydrated?  Here in Ohio, high school teams  are approaching the half-way point of pre-season and club teams are beginning to train for the fall - and it's frickin' hot!  As we get ready to start training, I'm concerned about how well my U-14 girls really keep themselves hydrated.  The body is somewhere between 60-70% water (depending on your source).  And that water is important for transporting nutrients to the cells in your body and it's also critical to the body's cooling process.  When we sweat, water evaporates and cools the body bringing the body's core temperature down keeping critical organs safe.  When we are dehydrated, the body loses it's ability to sweat, and therefore cool the body down, causing a number of problems from headaches and cramps, to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Staying properly hydrated is critical to player safety and performance.  Here are six simple  tips to help beat the heat!

1.  Drink often and drink regularly.  Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink!  Thirst is a good indicator that you are already dehydrated .  Hydrate regularly.   Some research suggest that men need around 13 cups of fluid a day and that women need around 9 cups.  The general rule of thumb is to drink eight cups of fluids a day, and that's for normal activity!  This is very important, particularly for athletes.    Some studies indicate that a fluid loss of just 1-2% of bodyweight during exercise can have a negative impact on performance.  Let's break that down.  In order to keep the math simple, let's say a player weighs 100 lbs.  A 1% loss then, would be 1lb, or 16oz of fluid lost during exercise.  So, losing as little as 2 cups of fluid during exercise can impair performance.  How much fluid does a player lose during a match?  What about a tournament?

2.  Drink-up 2-4 hrs before training.  While you should be hydrating often, it's a good idea to drink 12-20 oz of fluids a few hours before training to ensure you are properly hydrated.

3.  Monitor the color of your urine.  Are you done laughing now?  Good.  Monitoring the color of your urine is one of the easiest ways to keep tabs on how well you are hydrated.  If your urine color resembles that of diluted lemonade, you are well hydrated.  If it looks more like apple juice, you are dehydrated.

(Here's a great video I found from Gatorade UK presented by Dr. Mark Gillet of Chelsea FC on hydration and nutrition in Sport.)

4.  Re-fuel after exercise.  When you exercise, your body loses electrolytes.  Electrolytes are basically salts like Sodium, Potassium and Chloride that help balance fluids in the body and are very important for many organs to function properly.  Your body loses these salts when you sweat during exercise, so it's important that they be replaced.  Sports drinks are a great source for replenishing these salts during and after exercise.  They also provide a quick source of carbohydrates to help refuel the body and boost energy.   If you're not a fan of sports drinks, there's a lot of research now that shows that chocolate milk is also a great recovery fluid.  I'll talk more about sports drinks in a later post.

5.  Eat healthy.  Eat little and eat often.  Don't skip meals, especially breakfast!  Research indicates that eating little and often may be best for athletes, if they eat the right things.  Frequently eating healthy snacks like fruit and whole grain cereal bars are a great source of carbohydrates to help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent fatigue.

6.  Get plenty of rest.  Your body needs time to recover and rebuild after exercise and it does this best when you are sleeping.  Not giving your body this time to recover can lead to injury from not allowing proper time for muscles to heal.  Most studies show that 7-9 hours of sleep is optimal.  

Following these tips will help you beat the heat and maximize performance.  In my next post, I'll focus a little more on sports drinks versus water.  What other tips do you have for beating the heat?


Coach Doug

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