Sports Nutrition: Facts on Hydration

woman and man drinking bottles of water

Staying well hydrated when playing sports helps you perform your best. Nothing satisfies thirst better than water, but what about sports drinks and other beverages? Read on to learn about how much fluid you need when playing sports and which fluids are the best to choose.

Do I need to drink water before playing a sport?

Yes. When you play sports, drinking beforehand will help prevent dehydration, muscle cramps and getting tired too quickly.

Water is the best fluid to drink before playing a sport.

  • Drink at least 1 to 2 cups (250 to 500 mL) of fluid up to 4 hours before exercise. Water is usually your best choice.
  • Drink another ½ to 1½ cups (125 to 375 mL) of fluid about 2 hours before playing a sport if you have not produced any urine or if your urine is still dark yellow.

What should I drink while I play sports?

Drink water early and regularly to replace all the water that will be lost in your sweat.

What about sports drinks?

If you are sweating a lot for more than 45 minutes, a sports drink may be better than water. A sports drink will help to replace the sodium lost in sweat and keep you hydrated.

  • Sip on a sport drink every 10 to 15 minutes
  • If you are a heavier athlete or are playing sports very intensely, you may need to drink more sports drink

Drink more fluids (water or sports drink) if:

  • You sweat a lot 
  • You are wearing heavy sports equipment like in hockey or football
  • The environment or the weather is very hot and/or humid

What should I drink after I play sports?

Drink water after you play sports. You can also drink low fat milk or chocolate milk, 100% fruit juice or a sports drink.

What happens if I don’t drink enough? 

If you don’t drink enough fluids before, during or after playing a sport, you may become dehydrated. This may mean you are not able to keep your body as cool while playing a sport. It may also affect your performance.

Below are some of the signs of dehydration:

  • Thirst
  • Dry lips and dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Headache
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Dark yellow, strong smelling urine
  • Low blood pressure and increased heart rate

You may be dehydrated even if you don’t have any of the signs so it is important to drink fluids often even before you feel thirsty.

What about other fluids like energy drinks, coffee and pop?

Drinks like energy drinks, pop or fruit juice are very high in sugar. Your body cannot absorb them very well when you play sports. Water or a sports drink is the best choice while playing sports.

Bottom Line

Staying well hydrated when playing sports helps you perform your best. Water is usually the best choice, but if you are playing sports for more than 45 minutes or are playing sports at a high intensity, you may benefit from a sports drink. You may become dehydrated even if you don’t have any of the symptoms. Therefore, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids before, during and after you play sports. 

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Last Update – January 30, 2019

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