Did you know that your brain activity and concentration levels start to drop after only a 1-2% water loss?
Water is a crucial part of maintaining your body's systems and functions; especially as an athlete! With being nearly 2/3 of your body's composition, water is responsible for blood flow, body temperature regulation, cellular health, digestion and more. Whenever your body detects water levels that are too low (even 1-2%), it triggers the release of chemicals to slow water absorption by cells as well as increases sweating in order to lower internal body temperatures. While that can help slow the loss of water, your body continues to need a replacement of fluids and nutrients; especially if you are an athlete in the middle of training or a game!
I DON'T NEED WATER!!
Some athletes think that they "don't need water" because it is deemed weak, takes them away from playing or they didn't plan properly to bring a water bottle. So what exactly happens if you neglect your body's fluid requirements?
Blood volume drops (slowing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and causing your heart to work harder to push the thicker blood)
Brain to muscle communication is slowed (foot skills, movements, reaction speed is slowed)
Muscle fatigue (from a lack of fuel deliver you; i.e. nutrients, oxygen)
Lack of focus and concentration (due to reduced oxygen and blood flow to the brain)
Body temperature cannot be regulated properly (both in high and low temperatures)
Cramping muscles (from lack of oxygen and build up of lactic acid)
Heat exhaustion/stroke (in extreme cases)
Additionally, water allows for the bloodstream to deliver the nutrients your body has stored up for your game/training. If your body's water levels are too low, your body will not receive the nutrients needed for game play and recovery afterwards. So in a way, staying hydrated is possibly the most important aspect of being an athlete!
HOW TO TELL IF I'M DEHYDRATED?
Rest assured! There are a couple ways to ensure that you are properly hydrated before, during and after your soccer training/matches. Your body is very efficient in letting you know when you need more water. Here are a couple ways you can tell if you are hydrated or not:
• "Thirsty" Feeling - The human body will start triggering "thirsty" sensations when your water level drops 1-2%. By that time, you are already starting to become dehydrated.
• Sweating - Your body will trigger your sweat glands to start working once your internal body temperature gets too high. If you are starting to sweat, you should start to refuel. If your body gets to the point of no longer sweating, your body is in crucial need of water/electrolytes!
• The Pee Scale - Yes..... your urine can help you know if you are dehydrated. When your body goes into "water saving mode", your urine will become concentrated and darker in color. Many professional teams actually post a urine color guide near their restrooms to remind their players to rehydrate. The darker the urine, the less water in your system. The clearer, the better!
HOW CAN I HYDRATE?
Drink 15-20 oz of fluid 2-3 hours before your session
Drink during stoppages of play (i.e. halftime, in between training exercises, or substitutions)
After training, replace 1.5x the body weight lost during gameplay. A good rule of thumb is 15-30 oz of fluid within 30 min of training/gameplay.
Drink 2 quarts of fluid every couple hours after your match.
Drink your fluids slowly - don't gulp. This can lead to cramping!
WHAT SHOULD I DRINK?
There are many different drinks out there for athletes to refuel with. Water has traditionally been the "go-to" for athletes but you must consider what your needs are.
• Water - This is a major component of your body and is the main component lost during sweating. While the taste may be "bland", this will help maintain your focus and temperature during gameplay. Note - water should be cool, not cold. The body has to work harder to warm the water to body temperature, negating some the benefits you are trying to gain.
• Sports Drinks - These drinks (Gatorade, All Sport, Lucozade) are all drinks specially formulated for athletes to not only gain water back but also the sodium and electrolytes lost. This is crucial for athletes as sodium and potassium will help the body resist cramping.
Note - Sports drinks can contain many artificial chemicals, dyes and sugars which may not be good for your athlete. If you have to drink Gatorade, a 50/50 water dilution is the best option!
• Coconut Water - This is quickly becoming one of the main hydration options for athletes. It has more electrolytes than sports drinks, provides hydration like water and is low in sugar.
• Fruit Juice - Fruit juice can help rehydrate but be careful of the amount of sugar that may be in these drinks. Some "juices" have as much sugar as pop! Those simple carbohydrates are not good for your performance (and you will possibly crash!")
• Coffee/Tea - In small doses, caffeine has been proven to help increase focus of athletes along with minute amounts of nutrients. Originally considered a diuretic that would dehydrate athletes, sports nutrition specialists now support small amounts of caffeine as a concentration booster. Just be careful.... coffee and tea can leave players feeling "jittery" if consumed without food.
In the end, keeping your body hydrated is quite possibly the most important (yet easiest) step you can take to ensure your body is performing at its peak. If your body is properly hydrated, you can maintain your focus, keep your body fueled and perform longer on the soccer field. Just like maintaining your technical training and eating healthy, making sure you are properly hydrated is a key component in making sure your body can perform its best this upcoming season!