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Fluid Replacement for Athletes by Dave Parilla, ATC,L

separator When is the best time for an athlete to drink fluids? Before exercise? During the game? After the game? 

Dehydration, or the “body overheating” can occur when there is not enough water in the body to help is cool itself off, much like the antifreeze in a car. If this occurs, the body’s systems can shut down and result in coma or death. Often times, athletes will need to be rushed to the hospital and have IV’s put into their arms to help replace the fluids in a quick manner to prevent coma or death. 

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Dehydration usually occurs during football season, but can occur in winter sports such as basketball, hockey and wrestling. All sports/teams that restrict the amount of water an athlete can have run a risk of dehydration.

The human body is made up of over 75% water. Most of the body depends on water to work properly. During activity, the muscles highly depend on the water. A muscle with proper amounts of water allows for greater flexibility and less chance of injury.

Sweating is the body's way of reducing heat during exercise and cooling the body. If an athlete does not drink enough fluids they will be more at risk for muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. 

Ideally, you should drink water or a sports drink before, during and after physical activity. This will help prevent such injuries from occurring. Replacement of lost fluids is important to athletic performance and injury prevention. Dehydration affects muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance and will decrease performance.

In response to such concerns the National Athletic Trainers' Association has suggested fluid replacement guidelines for all physically active individuals. 

It is recommended to drink 17-20 ounces of water or a sports drink 2 -3 hours before exercise. Leading up to the event another 7-10 ounces should be consumed 10-20 minutes prior to activity. Once exercise begins, it is advised to drink another 7-10 ounces as early and often as possible, remembering to drink beyond your thirst. Finally, it is advised to drink fluids within 2 hours after competition for proper muscle recover. A good rule of thumb is to drink 20-24 ounces of water for every pound of weight loss as a result of exercise.

Questions/Comments can be faxed to 330-480-2594 or emailed to .

Dave Parilla is an Ohio Licensed Athletic Trainer trained in the evaluation, prevention and treatment of sports injuries. He is an athletic trainer for a local sports medicine program and has provides athletic training services to various schools.

Humility of Mary Health Partners, July 2003
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