According to research on NCAA Division I athletes, the importance of hydration is still not widely understood and appreciated. Here are the full details.
One of the biggest performance aids for athletes doesn't come from the local supplement store. Neither is is found in the latest and greatest compression gear or expensive weightlifting shoes. And it's not new training technique, drill or conditioning strategy that was cooked up in a secret lab somewhere.
It is, in fact, a fundamental aspect of performance, but a stunning majority of athletes overlook it.
It's being properly hydrated.
I know what you're thinking: "I drink tons of water!"
Maybe you do. But according to research published in 2009 in the Journal of Athletic Training, you probably don't. This study surveyed a group of 263 athletes at an NCAA Division I school in New England. Researchers randomly spot-checked the athletes before practice and measured their urine samples to determine their levels of hydration.
Fifty-three percent of the athletes—across both sexes—were dehydrated, and an additional 13% were very dehydrated. Only 34% produced samples evidencing that they were properly hydrated.
In addition, men were nearly twice as likely to be dehydrated as women.
Knowing this, how can athletes build better water-drinking habits?
Here are a few ideas:
- Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Proper hydration for athletes starts with having a bottle of water within arm's reach. Seems obvious, and maybe too simple, but you should have your water bottle whether you are at practice, at school or at work. Having it with you is a constant reminder to be attentive to your fluid intake. The power of having your water bottle present is that we tend to eat and drink what we see.
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Part of your daily morning routine should be to down a glass of water. Drinking coffee in the morning is cool—just make sure to pair it with water. We breathe out a lot of water vapor over the course of the night, leaving our water levels depleted when we wake up.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal. If you need to shave some weight off, this can be a powerful way to help you get your daily allotment of water and also manage cravings and hunger. A study performed in the UK found that weight loss participants who drank 500ml of water before each meal lost three more pounds over three months than members of the control group.
- Track your water intake. Athletes measure the things that are important to them. It's how they know they are improving. Having quantifiable outcomes keeps them focused. Drinking water is no different. You can start the day with a 4L jug of water to give you an accurate representation of how much water you consume over the day, or you can track your water intake in a food journal or even in your workout log book. Whatever, the case, remember the old adage—what gets tracked gets changed.
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