Water is critical to all body functions and makes up about 60 percent of a person's body weight. Water helps move nutrients throughout the body and helps remove waste from the body. Replacing the fluids lost during exercise is essential to sustaining performance, preventing dehydration, and avoiding injury. Even mild dehydration can cause muscle and body fatigue, which will reduce athletic performance. Since thirst is not always a reliable indicator of fluid loss, athletes should drink fluids before they get really thirsty.

Eight to ten cups a water a day is the recommended daily intake for most people. However, extra fluids are needed by athletes to replenish what is lost during exercise. Drinks with caffeine or alcohol should be avoided, as they are dehydrating. Exercising in extreme heat increases fluid needs even more, since more is lost through sweat. Taking in too much water can be just as dangerous as not taking in enough. Athletes should experiment with different fluid intakes to determine the best amounts for optimal performance.

Sports drinks can be helpful, especially for events lasting sixty minutes or longer. In addition to fluid, they provide the advantage of quick replacement of carbohydrate and minerals and also replace electrolytes lost iron: nutrient needed for red blood cell formation calcium: mineral essential for bones and teeth oxygen: O2, atmospheric gas required by all animals dehydration: loss of water electrolyte: salt dissolved in fluid


Time in reference to event

Ounces of fluid (oz.)

24 hours before 2 hours before 15 minutes before During After

Drink freely 8-16 oz. 8-16 oz.

4 to 8 oz. every 15-20 minutes Drink freely anxiety: nervousness amino acid: building block of proteins, necessary dietary nutrient amenorrhea: lack of menstruation osteoporosis: weakening of the bone structure estrogen: hormone that helps control female development and menstruation hormone: molecules produced by one set of cells that influence the function of another set of cells in sweat. Another advantage is taste. Athletes may be more likely to drink more fluid if the beverage has a desirable flavor. The ideal carbohydrate solution is 4 to 8 percent carbohydrate, which is typically found in sports drinks.

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