Fluid Needs for Athletes
Water plays an essential role in a number of functions in the body. It is required to help keep tissues moist, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, assist in the removal of waste products and carry nutrients and oxygen to cells.¹ The human body is about two-thirds water, so it is important to drink enough fluid to stay healthy and hydrated.² Adequate fluid intake is important for athletes as dehydration can negatively impact performance and may have adverse health outcomes. Common symptoms of dehydration during exercise include increased heart rate, impaired body temperature regulation, increased feelings of perceived exertion, reduced mental sharpness, reduced skill level and gastrointestinal upset.³
Fluid needs vary considerably between athletes. Requirements can be affected by a number of factors including genetics (heavy versus light sweat rates), body size (larger individuals need more fluids), fitness level, exercise environment and exercise intensity.⁴ Most individuals should aim for about 6-8 cups (1500-2000mL) of fluid per day; however, athletes can also estimate needs using their body weight. To meet day-to-day fluid requirements, the average person needs about 25-30mL of fluid per kg of body weight. For example, a 75kg individual would aim to consume about 1875-2250mL of fluid/day. To determine fluid needs related to exercise, athletes are encouraged to weigh themselves before and after exercise to estimate their own fluid requirements. Each kg of weight lost is equivalent to approximately 1 litre of fluid.⁴ Although it is important to stay hydrated before, during and after activities, athletes should note that there is no benefit of over hydration. In some cases consuming too much fluid can actually be detrimental to health (causing gastrointestinal discomfort or diluting blood sodium levels – if water is over consumed).
A common way to monitor hydration status is by the colour of your urine. If your urine is a dark yellow colour during the day, you are likely not drinking enough. While if you are passing urine often and it is a very pale colour you may be drinking too much. Hydrated individuals usually have a urine colour resembling pale straw.²
Although water is the best choice for hydration, athletes can also use an assortment of fluid foods to help meet hydration needs. Foods that are considered fluid foods include: coffee and tea (if you are a habitual caffeine consumer), gelatin containing products (i.e. Jell-O), ice chips/ice cubes, ice cream, juice, milk and milk substitutes, popsicles, sherbet, soup and sorbet.⁵
West African Peanut Soup
Makes about 6 servings
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small yellow onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce
4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 medium)
3 cups water
3 cups low sodium tomato juice
1 cup natural peanut butter
Optional Toppings: chives, scallions, cilantro
- Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, celery and salt. Cook, stirring often for about 10-15 minutes until soft.
- Stir in grated ginger and hot sauce.
- Add sweet potatoes and water. Bring contents to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes (sweet potatoes should be tender).
- Mix tomato juice and peanut butter in well.
- Using a blender, immersion blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth.
- Adjust seasonings as per taste.
- Serve topped with chives, scallions or cilantro.
Recipe adapted from the book Moosewood Restaurant Favorites (2013).
- Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic Website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799. Published 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
- Healthy hydration guide. British Nutrition Foundation Organization Website. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/hydration/healthy-hydration-guide.html. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
- Fluid – Who Needs It? Australian Institute of Sport Website. http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/hydration/fluid_-_who_needs_it. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
- Food that Counts as Fluid on the Kidney Diet. DaVita Website. https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/food-that-counts-as-fluid-on-the-kidney-diet/e/6965. Published 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
- Hydration. Australian Institute of Sport Website. http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/faq/hydration. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.