We all know that hydration is important, and I think that deep down we’re aware that sports drinks aren’t all that good for us, but what do the academics say? Here, we go through the hard science, and discover 5 things that you MUST know about hydration and sports performance.
1. YOU MIGHT NEED TO DRINK MORE THAN YOU THINK
The American College of Sports Medicine agrees that on average, a moderately active person should consume between 3-5L of water every day to stay adequately hydrated. You’ll note that the 8 glasses (2L) of water per day recommendation doesn’t quite cut it! This figure can rise depending on a few factors; perspiration rates, environmental conditions, activity intensity and more. In some (admittely rare) cases, 10L of water consumption is required to maintain sufficient hydration (high perspiration rates, hot conditions, extended and intense physical activity)!
2. DEHYDRATION IS DETRIMENTAL TO DECISION MAKING, MOOD, AND COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE
If you are playing any sport involving a team, tactics, a ball, or a direct opponent, it is very likely that decision making is a large part of whether you win or lose. The decisions to hit the ball down the line or cross-court, to shoot or pass to a teammate, to play defensively or aggressively can all directly affect the outcome of your given match, game or event. If you are dehydrated, even slightly, you aren’t able to perform cognitively at your peak, which means that snatching defeat from the jaws of victory might be more likely than not!
3. YOU LAST LONGER WHEN YOU ARE WELL-WATERED
In a clinical study testing cycling performance, it was demonstrated that a well-hydrated athlete was able to perform 6.5% better than those who were dehydrated. 6.5% might not seem like much, but when you consider how close some football matches can be, or how many running races are won “by a nose”, that 6.5% would most certainly come in handy!
4. BECOMING DEHYDRATED DOESN’T TAKE LONG
A water loss of as little as 2% of your bodyweight is all it takes to have a noticeable drop in sports performance. That’s about 1.3kg of sweat for a 65kg person. So that sounds like alot, but when you consider that some people can lose as much as 3kg of sweat per hour in hot conditions when undergoing vigorous exercise, it really isn’t that hard to achieve. And that is assuming that the athlete is well-hydrated in the first place, which many of us aren’t!
5. SPORTS DRINKS MAY NOT ENHANCE YOUR PERFORMANCE WHEN COMPARED WITH WATER
Sugar-laden sports drinks (and even the ‘sugar-free’ variants) have a reputation for improving hydration and performance, though research suggests that this is debatable. Studies have shown that not only do sports drinks hydrate you at the same rate as water, the performance gain is minimal at best, and then, only after fasting for 12 hours before exercise, which is hardly optimal! Add that to the increased gastrointestinal discomfort associated with exercise and sports drink use, and I’ll just stick to a glass of high quality H2O thank you very much!