Water is used by the body for a number of things including the regulation of body temperature, protection of organs and tissues, carrying nutrients and oxygen to and from cells, and lubricating your joints- just to name a few (1). Because our bodies rely on water so heavily in order to function properly, we have to do what we can to avoid dehydration.
During a practice or a game, you lose fluids and electrolytes through sweat, increased body temperature, and breathing. This can all lead to dehydration which can negatively affect your performance (2). The table below helps explain the differences between mild, moderate, and severe dehydration (2).
Mild Dehydration (2-5% body weight loss)
● Dark yellow urine
● Dry or flushed skin
● Slightly dry mucous
● Head rush
● Slightly decreased urine output
Moderate Dehydration (5-6% body weight loss)
● Decreased ability to sweat
● Sunken eyes
● Muscle cramps
● Tingling hands and feet
● Extreme fatigue
● Increased body temperature
● Faster breathing
● Increased heart rate
● Little or no urine output
● Extreme fatigue
Severe Dehydration (More than 7% body weight loss)
● Impaired vision
● Muscle spasms
● Rapid pulse
● Rapid breathing
● Low blood pressure
● Inability to produce tears
● Mottled/shrivelled skin
As previously stated, during practices and games you are losing fluids. So, you can prevent dehydration by consuming fluid before, during, and after physical activity. In general, you should start slowly drinking fluids at least 4 hours before the activity (2). During the activity, your fluid needs will vary based on a couple of different factors, such as the intensity of the activity and the environment/climate (2). In general, 400 to 800 ml of fluid per hour should be adequate (2). After exercise, you should be hydrating to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. A good rule of thumb is to consume approximately 1.5L of fluid for each kg of body weight lost (2).
Please bear in mind that these are all just recommendations and individuals will have different fluid needs. It’s best to find what works for you.
Caution: it’s also well known that thirst is not a good indicator for hydration levels because, by the time you feel thirsty, you may have already lost about 2% of your body mass (2). The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that daily fluid intake for men is 3.7 litres per day and 2.7 litres per day for women (3). However, your individual fluid needs can change depending on your health, the environment, and your activity level.
There are a couple of things you can do to make sure that you are getting enough water each day:
1. Check your urine colour
● As a general rule the clearer your urine, the more hydrated you are. Under normal conditions, your urine should be light yellow when you’re hydrated and if your urine is dark yellow or brown you are dehydrated (2).
2. Track your water intake
● If you have a goal for the amount of water you want to drink each day, you could keep track of it in a notebook, bullet journal, or just a sticky note to keep you on track.
3. Try flavoured waters
● If you don’t like the taste of water, you can add cut-up fruit or vegetables to enhance the taste.
Mayo Clinic Health System [Internet].; 2018-2021 [2020 Jul 22; 2021 Mar 8]. Speaking of Health; [About 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/water-essential-to-your-body
NCCP Sport Nutrition: Reference Material. 2019 Ⓒ Coaching Association of Canada; Date [ October 24, 2020].Available: https://coach.ca/nccp-sport-nutrition
Mayo Clinic Health System [Internet].; 2018-2021 [2020 Oct 14; 2021 Mar 8]. Healthy Lifestyle; [About 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women