Hydration= Water + Electrolytes
Most people understand the importance of proper hydration; water is being pushed upon everyone for good health, but while water is necessary for hydration and proper body function, it can’t work alone.
According to the USTA, there is a condition called hyponatremia which happens when an athlete only consumes water, and sweats out large amounts of electrolytes like sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. This means that the fluids within the body becomes diluted, causing nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness, irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, cramps, and even seizures in worst case scenarios. So while it is important to be taking in water during exercise, it is also equally important to replenish the amount of electrolytes.
Many sources say that water is fine for light to moderate intensity exercises, but only if you will be doing them within one hour. After that, you need to start adding electrolytes back into your body. You will notice that many athletes on the tennis court will have sports drinks as well as water, and it is due to electrolytes. The best sports drink is said to have 17g of carbohydrates and electrolytes. However, some of you may fear that sports drinks may have too much sugar, salt, or unwanted ingredients for your body. If that is the case, you could opt for coconut water instead of Gatorade. John Isner, the pro tennis player who won an 11-hour Wimbledon match, swears by it.
Now you know what you need to drink, but how much is enough? Many sources say that measuring by thirst isn’t reliable; your body may already be 2% dehydrated by the time you feel it in your throat. It is recommended to take in 5-10oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes. Notice that it can be water, a sports drink, juice, milk, or non-caffeinated drink. (We do not recommend caffeinated drinks because they actually cause your body to dehydrate.) If you know you are going on court, experts recommend drinking 16-20oz of water an hour beforehand. Then, to drink 4-8oz of either water or a sports drink after warming up, and between changeovers. The amount of fluids could vary from person to person, so find out what’s right for you.
The best way to figure out your hydration level is through your urine color. If the color is clear to lightly yellow tinted, you are hydrated well enough. If the color is dark, however, you need to drink more. This method is most comfortable and painless, however, if you see these other, less comfortable symptoms in yourself, you may be dehydrated and in need of fluids. The first symptom of dehydration is thirst. If you are thirsty, drink. If you do not drink after feeling thirsty, the more terrible symptoms occur. The level of dehydration after thirst can be anything from dizziness to just irritability. If you feel anything along these lines, drink lots of fluids and rest in a cool, shaded place. If you push yourself and play past this point, you will reach dyspnea (shortness of breath), and vomiting— you will need medical help. Nothing in sports is more important than your health and wellbeing. Take care of yourself.
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