Inside the Training Room – The Importance of Hydration


“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”

The number of times I hear about how important it is to keep enough fluids in your body as an athlete is more than there are stars in the sky. But the advice of parents, coaches, and teammates telling me to fill up on liquids has kept me healthy and active throughout all of my games. Staying hydrated is an extremely important part of preventing injuries and remaining in the game playing at your top performance. Most trained medical professionals agree that the best way to stay hydrated is by drinking plain old water, but there are other drinks that are beneficial as well.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to the best beverage for a player with the recent popularity of many drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade. Many athletes prefer these sports drinks as a replacement for water, whether it be they think it helps them recover faster or it just flat out tastes better. The truth is, sports drinks are very helpful in replenishing athletes after a long, intense exercise. They contain a combination of electrolytes, carbs, minerals, and vitamins. This great assortment of nutrients serves to restore lost fluids and sodium levels. Also, the sugary carbs provide the athlete with a boost of natural energy to aid in recovery.

Another common post-workout beverage for athletes is chocolate milk. Some will swear by it, while others claim it being beneficial is only a myth. Truthfully, low-fat chocolate milk makes a simple and effective post-workout snack. It offers just the right mix of carbs and protein to help muscles recover.

On the other hand, certain “energy” drinks, such as Monster and Redbull, are never a good idea for athletes to consume. These drinks contain the stimulant caffeine that creates an artificial and temporary energy boost, as opposed to the natural one created by sports drinks. The high concentrations of caffeine these drinks contain can actually increase the risks of dehydration, as well as causing jitters, dizziness, and headaches. In extreme cases, high doses of caffeine have even been linked to cardiac emergencies.

Ultimately, water should always be the go-to drink. Sports drinks and chocolate milk are not bad to drink in addition to water though, and they can actually aid in muscle recovery. But why is hydration important? Well, dehydration can lead to many things including muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and ultimately a condition called Post-Extreme Endurance Syndrome (PEES), which causes symptoms such as decreased body temperature, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

“A lot of adolescents think they’re getting enough hydration but they’re clearly not,” says FHC’s Head Athletic Trainer, JaNae Stewart.

Many times in high school, college, and even professional games, athletes go down and must come out of the game for something as simple – and as easily avoidable – as a muscle cramp.

Hydration is the first step to having a successful performance and preventing injuries. Ideally, one to two days before the game, match, or meet is when you should start filling up on fluids. It is an easy and small task athletes can do that will have a huge impact on how they play.