Hydration Important for Athletes

Hydration Important for Athletes

Water helps control blood volume, body temperature, and muscle contractions. Sweating is how the body regulates temperature during activity. Sweat evaporates, causing a loss of bodily fluid and heat loss. Temperature, humidity, and activity intensity enhance sweat production and fluid loss.

Replacing sweat-lost fluids requires drinking during exercise. This reduces heat stress, maintains muscle function, and prevents dehydration-related performance drops. Most athletes get dehydrated during activity because sweating is faster than drinking. Fluid guidelines encourage consuming more fluid to avoid dehydration deficits and performance losses. It’s easy to overdrink while exercising, though. Knowing your sweat rate and how much to drink is important. Get a fluid plan from your sports dietician.


Dehydration and Performance

Can you overdrink?

Drinking more than is comfortable can impair performance. In cool temperatures or when exercising slowly, perspiration loss is low. Drinking more than sweating is unnecessary and hazardous. Overhydration with exercise dilutes blood sodium (hyponatremia). Headaches, confusion, coma, and death are symptoms. This is rare, but; dehydration is more common.

Estimating your fluid losses

The sweat rate can indicate something to drink when exercising.

Sports dietitians measure an athlete’s sweat rate throughout training and competition to build a customized fluid regimen.


Follow these straightforward methods to measure your fluid losses:

  • Weigh oneself in little clothing before a workout. Urinate before weighing.
  • Start workout
  • Weigh yourself at the end of your session, in little clothing, after drying off. 
  • Your weight change during exercise is the difference between sweat loss and hydration intake.
  • Weight loss during exercise is mostly water (not fat) and must be restored soon after.
  • Breathing, spitting, and vomiting cause small losses. Monitor sweat losses to know how much fluid to refill throughout training and competition.

Which drink is best?

Hydration is crucial for athletes to maintain performance and recover efficiently. The best drink for athlete hydration depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise, the environmental conditions, and individual needs. Here are some of the best drinks for athlete hydration:


  1. Water:

    Water alone can replace fluids in low-intensity and short-duration sports.
    Adding glucose and electrolytes to water improves performance, especially in high-intensity and endurance sports.

    If a drink tastes nice, athletes will drink more of it, which may help them fulfil fluid targets or rehydrate better. Fluid carbohydrate supply muscle energy and enhances flavour. Sports drinks have this advantage over water. Sodium and other electrolytes are lost through sweat during and after exercise. Sodium stimulates thirst, boosts glucose and water uptake in the intestines, and lowers post-exercise urine output.
    Salt can be eaten with post-exercise fluids. For additional information, visit the SDA fact sheet on Sports Drinks.

    When to Use: Suitable for short-duration exercises (less than an hour) and low to moderate intensity.

    • Benefits: Replenishes lost fluids without adding any extra calories or sugars
  2. Electrolyte Drinks/Sports Drinks:
    • Examples: Gatorade, Powerade, etc.
    • When to Use: Beneficial for prolonged exercises (more than an hour) or high-intensity workouts.
    • Benefits: Contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which are lost through sweat. They also provide carbohydrates to refuel muscles.
  3. Coconut Water:
    • When to Use: Suitable for moderate exercises and as a natural alternative to commercial sports drinks.
    • Benefits: Natural source of electrolytes and has fewer calories and sugars than many commercial sports drinks.
  4. Milk (including Chocolate Milk):
    • When to Use: Post-workout recovery drink.
    • Benefits: Provides essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Chocolate milk offers a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, making it an effective post-exercise recovery drink.
  5. Oral Rehydration Solutions:
    • Examples: Pedialyte, DripDrop, etc.
    • When to Use: Useful for extreme dehydration situations, not typically for standard athletic performance.
    • Benefits: Specifically formulated to treat dehydration, these solutions have a precise balance of electrolytes.
  6. Cherry Juice:
    • When to Use: Post-workout recovery.
    • Benefits: Contains antioxidants that help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation.
  7. Water with Electrolyte Tablets:
    • Examples: Nuun, GU Hydration Drink Tabs, etc.
    • When to Use: During prolonged exercises.
    • Benefits: These tablets dissolve in water and provide electrolytes without many of the added sugars found in commercial sports drinks.
  8. Lemon Water:
    • When to Use: Anytime for a refreshing twist on plain water.
    • Benefits: Lemon adds flavour and a small number of natural electrolytes.
  9. Tea:
    • When to Use: Anytime, especially for those looking for a caffeine boost without consuming energy drinks or coffee.
    • Benefits: Provides hydration and antioxidants. Some teas, like green tea, also contain caffeine, which can enhance athletic performance in some individuals.
  10. BCAA Drinks:
  • When to Use: During or post-workout.
  • Benefits: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) can help with muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness.


Note: While these drinks can aid in hydration and recovery, athletes need to listen to their bodies. Individual hydration needs can vary based on body weight, sweat rate, and environmental conditions. Always consult with a sports nutritionist or healthcare professional to tailor hydration strategies to individual needs.



Increasing numbers of drinks contain caffeine. WADA no longer bans caffeine. Small to moderate dosages of caffeine (75-200 mg) can assist sustain exercise performance, reduce perceived effort, and not affect hydration status. Athletes often consume caffeine ad hoc and may be ignorant of its adverse effects. Consult a sports nutritionist or sports scientist about caffeine consumption and individual responses.


Alcohol isn’t a good choice after exercise because it hinders healing and rehydration. If you choose to drink alcohol after exercise, take care of your recovery needs first (replacing fluids, carbohydrate storage, and protein to aid muscle regeneration), then enjoy a drink in moderation.

Fluid-Guidelines Summary

  • Dehydration can affect coordination, decision-making, perceived exertion, and heat stress.
  • Try to match sweat rate with fluid intake.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Train your competition fluid intake plan.
  • Weigh yourself before and after training and competition to determine your perspiration rate.
  • Water is good for low-intensity, short-duration activities.
  • Activities drinks are great for stop-go’ and endurance sports.
  • Assess the consequences of drinking on your rehabilitation.


Fluids in Sport – Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). (n.d.). Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/fluids-in-sport/




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