It’s about that time of year when high school and collegiate athletes will be reporting to pre-season training camp. The dreaded 2 and 3-a-day practices in the heat and humidity push the boundaries of responsible coaching. Risk of injury and illness becomes significantly heightened as the athletes are put through a grueling 1-2 weeks of intense training. The focus of today’s post is on important considerations and practical methods for ensuring that our athletes remain adequately hydrated throughout camp.
- An adaptation period to training in hot and humid environments is necessary. Athlete’s who have either been training in-doors, or not training at all prior to camp are particularly in need of heat acclimatization. Remember also that football players will be wearing heavy equipment that they likely have not been training in throughout the summer. Athletes previously unexposed to these conditions will not only perspire more, but will lose a greater amount of electrolytes via perspiration compared to heat-adapted athletes. In addition to increased risk of dehydration, excessive physical activity in high temperatures increases the risk of exertional heat illness. For more information and guidelines on this topic see here and here.
- Don’t think that because an athlete is older, advanced, or more experienced, that they will remain adequately hydrated. Even NFL and NCAA level athletes experience dehydration (Godek & Bartolozzi 2009; Godek et al. 2005). These programs have systems and strategies in place to avoid dehydration and yet it can still occur.
- Physical performance is reduced with as little as a 2% reduction in bodyweight from dehydrations. Adequately hydrated athletes are perform better than even moderately dehydrated individuals.
Practical Hydration Suggestions:
- The teams athletic training or strength and conditioning coach can record and monitor body weight in each athlete before and after each practice. All that is required is a reliable scale and a spreadsheet. Athletes should be weighed in minimal clothing as wet gear from sweat may indicate that a player a pound or two heavier than they actually are. General guidelines suggest that athletes should consume 500-600ml of fluids for every pound of bodyweight lost from practice.
- To identify athletes who are excreting higher levels of sodium in their sweat, have the athletes wear a dark colored shirt under their gear. Salt stains are easily exposed once the shirt dries. These athletes should be encouraged to include more sodium in their next meal. Sports drinks may be a good option as electrolytes are included in the beverage.
- Have plenty of water available for athletes during practice and encourage them to hydrate at regular intervals. Offering sports drinks may increase fluid consumption as some athletes may prefer the taste over water.
- Constantly encourage your athletes to consume plenty of fluids during their down time away from practice. Starting practice in a hypohydrate state is unfortunately a common occurrence.
- Posting an image above the urinals in the change room that displays what urine should and should not look like provides an easy visual for athletes to easily assess their hydration status.
Godek, S. F., & Bartolozzi, A. R. (2009). Changes in Blood Electrolytes and Plasma Volume in National Football League Players During Preseason Training Camp. Age (y), 25, 2-6.
Godek, S. F., Godek, J. J., & Bartolozzi, A. R. (2005). Hydration status in college football players during consecutive days of twice-a-day preseason practices. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 33(6), 843-851.