Proper hydration is especially important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for footballers is essential to comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids.
Footballers need to stay hydrated for optimal performance. Studies have found that a loss of two or more percent of one’s body weight due to sweating is linked to a drop in blood volume. When this occurs, the heart works harder to move blood through the bloodstream. This can also cause muscle cramps, dizziness and fatigue and even heat illness including:
• Heat Exhaustion
• Heat Stroke
Causes of Dehydration
• Inadequate fluid intake
• Excessive sweating
• Failure to replace fluid losses during and after exercise
• Exercising in dry, hot weather
• Drinking only when thirsty
Hyponatremia – Water Intoxication
Although rare, you could be at risk of drinking too much water and suffering from hyponatremia or water intoxication. Clearly, drinking the right amount of the right fluids is critical for performance and safety while exercising.
Adequate Fluid Intake for Footballers
Because there is wide variability in sweat rates, losses and hydration levels of individuals, it is nearly impossible to provide specific recommendations or guidelines about the type or amount of fluids footballers should consume. Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise and other individual differences. There are, however, two simple methods of estimating adequate hydration: • Monitoring urine volume output and color. A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated. • Weighing yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need.
Things that Affect Fluid Loss in Footballers
• Temperature. Exercising in the heat increases you fluid losses through sweating and exercise in the cold can impair you ability to recognize fluid losses and increase fluid lost through respiration. In both cases it is important to hydrate.
• Sweating. Some athletes sweat more than others. If you sweat a lot you are at greater risk for dehydration. Again, weigh yourself before and after exercise to judge sweat loss.
• Exercise Duration and Intensity. Exercising for hours (endurance sports) means you need to drink more and more frequently to avoid dehydration.
To find the correct balance of fluids for exercise, the American College Of Sports Medicine suggests that “individuals should develop customized fluid replacement programs that prevent excessive (greater than 2 percent body weight reductions from baseline body weight) dehydration. The routine measurement of pre- and post-exercise body weights is useful for determining sweat rates and customized fluid replacement programs. Consumption of beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates can help sustain fluid-electrolyte balance and exercise performance.”
What about Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 250ml helps to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance. It’s really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you’re unlikely to deplete your body’s stores of these minerals during normal training. If, however, you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over 3 or 5 hours (a marathon, Ironman or ultramarathon, for example) you may likely want to add a complex sports drink with electrolytes.
General Guidelines for Fluid Needs During Training
While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most footballers can use the following guidelines as a starting point, and modify their fluid needs accordingly.
Hydration Before Training
• Drink about 250-500ml, 2-3 hours before exercise
• Drink 250ml 10-15 min before exercise
Hydration During Exercise
• Drink 250ml every 10-15 min during exercise
• If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 250ml of a sports drink (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 15 – 30 minutes.
Hydration After Exercise
• Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.
• Drink 500-700ml water for every 1 lb lost.
• Consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein within the 2 hours after exercise to replenish glycogen stores.