We’re all familiar with the dry mouth and the desire to drink water we get when we’re thirsty. Thirst pains are a little more stealthy, as they aren’t always accompanied by a desire to drink.
When we work hard, we sweat. And, when we sweat, we lose water. Our bodies need water to flush acidic waste from our cells. This is a process that happens continually. When we aren’t adequately hydrated, this process becomes slower, these wastes build up, and our nerves most often communicate the problem to us in the form of pain.
The intensity of sports like soccer make hydration an important part of training and preparedness on the field. It takes about 24 hours to fully hydrate before a game to give you the stamina you’ll need to bring your top performance. If you’re thirsty at the beginning of a match, you’re already mildly dehydrated. Studies have shown that dehydration can have a diminishing effect on your skills execution, in-game decision making, and general range of play. It can take between 24-48 hours to recover from a dehydration episode, so the fluids you take in during a game will not fully remedy the problem in real time.
Young athletes may not realize that they’re dehydrated or even sense that they’re thirsty. Having a few sips in between field time may not be adequate to keep hydration levels up, especially in the hot sun.
Beyond dry, sticky mouths, there are several ways to tell if you need to hydrate:
Bad breath ~ When you’re not taking in enough fluids, you don’t produce enough saliva. This can give mouth bacteria the upper hand, leading to bad breath.
Dark urine ~ urine should be clear, and tinged yellow; dark yellow or orange urine is a sign you need to hydrate.
Not sweating ~ if you’re working hard and your skin is dry, it may be because you’re dehydrated.
Cramps ~ if you’re having muscle cramps, especially in the legs, dehydration may be the culprit.
Headache ~ headaches due to a need to hydrate are another common form of ‘thirst pain’.
Fever and/or chills ~ fever and chills can be signs of more extreme hydration, and can require medical attention.
Staying hydrated on the field, court or ice is important to player health and in-game performance. Here are some tips to make sure your hydration levels stay up:
Start early. You should start hydrating 24 hours before high-intensity games or training.
Use in-game breaks to take in fluids. Regular white milk has been proven to hydrate better than sports drinks and even water. White milk is an excellent source of not only water, but the carbohydrates, electrolytes you need to stay hydrated and perform.
Manage your fluid intake. Your weight before intense activity minus your weight after (Fluid lost = weight before – weight after) will give you an idea of how much fluid you’ve lost. You should drink about 1.5 litres of fluid for every kilogram of weight lost.
If it’s hot, you’ll need to drink more to stay hydrated and cool. Keep chilled fluids on hand and drink regularly.