Tips for Athletes to Stay Hydrated

Written by: Brilliant Staff

Fact checked by: Kelsey Butler, RDN

Tips for Athletes to Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is vital for everyone, but especially so for athletes. Proper hydration impacts everything from muscle function to joint health. It's not just about drinking water but understanding your body's needs and intelligently hydrating to perform your best. Let's discuss some effective hydration strategies to help athletes stay in top form.

Why is Hydration Crucial for Athletes?

Our body is approximately 60% water, which shows how water is vital to survival. This percentage climbs even higher when we consider that our muscles are closer to 75% water.

When exercising, our bodies utilize this water to help regulate body temperature via sweat, keep joints lubricated, and transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. Your body can't perform at its highest level if you're not adequately hydrated. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more severe symptoms.

Losing as little as 2% of your body weight in water can impair physical performance, whereas losses greater than 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30%. 

No matter your fitness level, if you’re an athlete, ensuring you're adequately hydrated is crucial in improving athletic performance and reducing the risk of electrolyte imbalances.

Simple and Effective Hydration Tips for Athletes

  1. Don't wait till you're thirsty: Thirst isn't the best indicator of your hydration status. By the time you're thirsty, you might already be heading towards dehydration. Therefore, making it a point to sip on fluids throughout the day is a smart move.
  2. Start hydrating before a workout: Your body needs to be at an optimum hydration level before you start sweating. A decent rule of thumb is to drink at least 500ml (roughly two cups) of fluids two hours before exercising.
  3. Hydrate during exercise: This largely depends on the duration and intensity of the workout. But aiming for 150 to 350ml (roughly half to one and a half cups) every 15 to 20 minutes could serve as a reasonable guideline.
  4. Recover with fluids: Refuel your body post-workout by replacing the fluids lost. A mixture of water and a source of electrolytes (like sports drinks, coconut water, or even a homemade electrolyte blend) can aid rapid recovery.
  5. Listen to your body: Every athlete's hydration requirement is unique as it depends on multiple factors, including the type of sport, body composition, and environmental conditions. Hence, an important aspect is to observe your body's signs and symptoms of dehydration (like dry lips, dark urine, fatigue) and hydrate accordingly.
  6. Consider all sources of fluids: Although water is the primary hydration source, you can also consider other fluids like sports drinks or natural electrolytes like coconut water. Even your diet can contribute to your hydration levels through foods like watermelon and oranges.
  7. Use electrolyte supplement powders: Electrolyte powders that contain minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium can be an effective way to replace the electrolytes you lose during workouts. Electrolyte powders can be added to your water for post-workout recovery or during long-duration or high-intensity activities, especially when exercising in hot weather.
  8. Check your urine: A simple and quick self-check is to look at the color of your urine. If it's light or clear, you're appropriately hydrated. If it's dark or cloudy, you need more fluid.

Navigating your hydration strategy might seem daunting initially. But with these simple steps, one can quickly develop an effective hydration routine tailor-made to their needs. Staying hydrated doesn't have to be a chore, but it should be a priority, especially for athletes. With these tips, you can conquer that next workout, game, or race — and do it safely!


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