How Much Water Should An Athlete Drink in a Day?

Determining the Right Amount of Water for the Modern Athlete

Today’s athletes are a different breed from the athletes that used to dominate the world of sports even as recent as a decade ago. This is due to the rapidly increasing number of talented people creating a more competitive environment where standing out becomes harder. In order for the modern athlete to separate themselves from the herd, they have to push themselves much harder. Your body needs water to sustain this increased performance, the lack of which will not only impact your athletic performance, but will also negatively affect your general health. You may experience symptoms of heat exhaustion and even experience a heat stroke in some of  the most serious cases. Top athletes use cooling towels as a way to combat overheating and improve their performance. For more in depth information click here.

What Are The Factors Affecting Fluid Loss?

Fluid loss is the phenomenon where the fluid you intake gets used up or is expended by a number of bodily processes that happen all day, even while you’re asleep. These are some of the major factors affecting fluid losses in athletes.

  • Physiological Factors – this factor is probably one of the only ones that we can not control. This factor is intrinsic to the individual — meaning it is independent to outside factors such as the amount of fluid intake. Physiological factors include: your rate of metabolism which is the rate at which your body utilizes resources, your genetics also play a major part in your fluid intake.
  • Temperature and Humidity – it’s intuition for one to think that he or she may require more water if the day is hotter. Your body requires more water the higher the temperature gets to facilitate more sweating. Sweating cools down the body through a process called evaporative cooling. 
  • Altitude – altitude also plays a critical role in how an athlete can lose fluids. Athletes actually make programs and invest in training gear that simulate the effects of training at higher altitudes like altitude masks. Training at higher altitudes forces your body to work harder because it has less oxygen to work with, thus improving performance in more oxygen-rich environments. A side effect of this is that your body will need more water to compensate for the fact that your body is automatically working overdrive.
  • Training Intensity – training intensity also plays an integral part in determining how much water an athlete loses. The amount of water loss would be different on light training days with mostly auxiliary movements than days with heavy, intensive training. As the athlete moves through more intensive days, so must their fluid intake. 

When and How Much To Drink

Knowing when to drink and how much fluid to intake can make or break the performance of an athlete especially during the months and weeks nearing the big game where every minute detail of their training is carefully monitored down to the last calorie they eat. 

  • Pre-training – athletes should intake up to 16 ounces of water before a training session, ideally at least 2 hours before the session. This gives their body ample time to absorb and distribute the water to every muscle fiber. Well-hydrated muscles can produce much stronger and faster contractions to deliver more explosive power to the athlete’s movements rather than dehydrated muscles.
  • During Training – as your body starts to heat up and perform at peak capacity, it will continue to need water. Take big gulps of water in anywhere between 15 to 20 minute intervals. Some athletes who sweat more heavily may need to intake water as quickly as every 10 minutes or so. A good rule of thumb would be to drink water when you start getting the tiniest bit parched.
  • Post training – another good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before and after training. For your post workout rehydration regimen, try to drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost during the session.

Should I Drink Even When I’m Not Thirsty?

Generally, you should try to set a minimum amount of water that you intake every day, even if you’re not feeling thirsty. It’s better to overdo than to underdo with water intake as you can simply excrete the excess. 

Therefore, it is still a good idea to keep up with your water intake even if you’re not feeling thirsty. Many studies have shown that drinking a glass of water right after waking up and just before going to bed can increase your metabolic rate — which is something you want as an athlete. 

Effects of Water on Muscle Performance

Muscles that are under-hydrated tend to cramp more often due to the lack of electrolytes in the muscle fibers. Water is what carries these electrolytes since they are water-soluble. Water also thins the blood allowing the blood to flow faster in and out of the muscle fibers. This “washing” of the muscles is one of the most important functions of water in the body when it comes to muscle health as the muscle constantly produces lactic acid, the by-product of muscle contractions, it needs to be constantly carried out of the body. The burning sensation you feel when you overwork a muscle is what’s called lactic acid poisoning. Ideally, an athlete should also drink 4 to 8 ounces of water a few minutes before training to ensure that their body has an ample supply. 

Having “well-watered” muscles can help improve an athlete’s performance greatly. It’s almost like having a well-oiled machine, or a finely tuned grand piano producing a symphony. When you keep your body well hydrated, it’ll perform at peak levels.

Conclusion

All things considered, the amount of water an athlete consumes in a day fully depends on the performance, water loss, and intensity of training of the athlete. These are just some tips that we’ve gathered to hopefully give you a baseline on what the optimal water intake for an athlete looks like. 

Also, please be reminded that for all things medical, consult a professional coach or your physician before making major changes to your program.

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