Fluid Replacement for Athletes
You might be surprised to learn that the most important part of any athletes diet is fluids. While humans can survive for about month without food, they can only survive a few days without water. Athletes need to drink extra fluids to replace body water lost while practicing or competing.
One of the most important functions of water is to cool the body. As an athlete exercises, working muscles generate heat, and this raises the temperature of the entire body. When the body gets hot, it sweats and as the sweat evaporates, the body is cooled. If the athlete does not replace this sweat by drinking more fluids, the bodys water balance will be upset and the body may overheat.
All athletes must drink water before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can start when an athlete loses as little as 1 percent of body weight. Use these basic guidelines to be sure that an athlete is drinking enough water:
Before exercise: drink 2 cups of cold water 1 to 2 hours before activity
During exercise: drink ½ cup of cold water every 15 minutes
After exercise: drink 2 cups of cold water for every pound of weight loss
Plain cold water is the best and most economical source of fluid. The body absorbs cold fluids faster than warmer ones, and drinking water is the easiest way to replace body fluids. Athletes also can use sports drinks, especially during activities lasting more than 90 minutes. These drinks should contain no more than 15 to 18 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Fruit juice may only be used as a fluid replacement if it is diluted at least twofold: 1 cup water for every 1 cup of juice. Carbonated beverages, high-sugar drinks and undiluted fruit juice are too high in carbohydrates and may cause stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Caffeinated beverages, such as tea, coffee and cola beverages, will dehydrate the body even more.
Athletes can also replace their body fluids with foods containing a lot of water, such as oranges, watermelon, apples, grapes, lettuce, and tomatoes, along with water. These foods provide water and carbohydrates and they are good for replacing lost water and energy after exercise.