Water is the most important factor in overall health and nutrition. It makes up about 60 percent of body weight and is involved in almost every bodily process. Your body cannot make or store water, so you must replace what you eliminate through urine and sweat.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that we should be drinking at least two quarts (eight cups) of water each day, and highly-active individuals need even more. However, we are all built differently, so a better rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it by two. This is the number of ounces of water that you should be striving for each and every day.
(ie. If you weigh 160 pounds, your goal should be to drink 80 ounces of water per day.)
Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after sports events to stay hydrated and avoid overheating. When you work out or compete, especially in hot weather, try to closely match the amount of fluid you drink with the amount you lose to sweat.
Cool water is the best fluid to keep you hydrated during workouts or events lasting an hour or less. Sports drinks (anything with 6-10 percent carbohydrates) are useful for longer events. Most of these types of drinks should be diluted approximately 50 percent with water. Drink even if you are not thirsty. Thirst is not a reliable way to tell if you need water. You won't start feeling thirsty until you have already lost about 2 percent of body weight, which is enough to hurt performance. If you stop drinking water once your thirst is satisfied, you will only get about half the amount you actually need.
Do you find yourself getting sleepy in the middle of the day for no apparent reason? It may be dehydration. The University of Connecticut performed a study on both men and women in their Human Performance Laboratory and found a decrease in cognitive function when they experienced just a 1.5% water deficit. The 25 women and 26 men involved in the study also reported an increase in headaches and fatigue.
Some tips for staying hydrated
1. Drink small amounts of water frequently, rather than large amounts less often.
2. Drink cold beverages to cool your core body temperature and reduce sweating.
3. Weigh yourself after working out and drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound lost. Your body weight should be back to normal before the next workout.
4. Pay attention to the amount and color of your urine. You should excrete a large volume that is nearly colorless. Small amounts or dark colored urine can indicate dehydration.