It's finally summer time!
For baseball players that means Select Tournaments, College Showcases and a chance to hone your skills to play at the next level. However, all the hard work in the world can be sabotaged if you don't eat right and stay hydrated.
Here in Texas players are accustomed to playing in 100°+ heat with nowhere to hide from the sun, but even lower temperatures, when combined with the intense humidity experienced throughout the country, can dehydrate any player and send them into a "spiral" that seriously affects performance at the plate and in the field.
As part of our mission to help BRUCE BOLT players BE BETTER we enlisted the help of BB contributor Margaret Connor, MPH, NTP to show us how to stay properly hydrated to achieve peak performance when it counts. This article will cover:
- Importance of Hydration
- Signs you are Dehydrated
- How and when to properly hydrate for a tournament weekend
- 3 best sports drinks to stay hydrated
- How to Hydrate on and off the field
WHY IS HYDRATION SO IMPORTANT?
- POWER OUPUT, ENDURANCE and FATIGUE: Hydration can make or break your game. Even slight dehydration can reduce power output, slow endurance and accelerate fatigue. Players can actually feel more tired during their game if they are not properly hydrated (something researchers call “perceived exertion”) even if they've had enough rest the night before or have enough energy from proper nutrition.
- REDUCE INJURIES: Staying hydrated also reduces injuries. When your body is properly hydrated, your connective tissue stays spongy and elastic creating a cushion that absorbs shock to your bones and joints. Staying hydrated also lubricates those joints for better movement. Lastly, hydration helps your brain work better and improves focus in the field and at the plate. We’ve all experienced the fuzzy dizziness that comes from being dehydrated and it won’t give you the quick reaction time you need for this game.
- MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENT IN THE BODY: The bottom line is this: Water is the most important nutrient in the body. Humans can go about 8 weeks without food, but only days without water. Because our bodies can’t store all the water we need to function, we have to consume about 92% of our water through foods and beverages. So today we will be discussing when to hydrate, how to hydrate, and what the signs and symptoms are of dehydration.
THE TOP SIGNS YOU ARE DEHYDRATED
- Increased Heart Rate
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Acute fatigue
- Decreased Urination
- Sunken Eyes
HOW TO PROPERLY HYDRATE
- WHEN YOU SHOULD HYDRATE: Once you’re dehydrated, it can actually take 1-2 days to properly rehydrate the body’s tissues so its important that your athlete drinks throughout the week NOT. JUST. ON. GAME. DAY.On game day: Upon waking, have your athlete drink a large glass of water before getting out of bed (16-20 fl oz) so that it is absorbed before breakfast. Sip a beverage during your meals. Drinking large amounts of fluid during a big meal can lead to stomach cramps and heartburn so sipping is best. Water bottles need to be out and open in the dugout to drink when thirsty. Most important rule of thumb:
- TRUST YOUR THIRST! Thirst is the body’s natural signal to drink more. Teach your kids to trust it. The notion that feeling thirsty is a sure sign you’re already dehydrated is not true. Like you, I’m not always sure my son tunes into himself while running on and off the field so I’ll share some pointers on how to keep your kids drinking below.
- HOW YOU SHOULD HYDRATE: Most research suggests that pure water is the best form of hydration for athletes engaged in “moderate” activities like baseball. However, those doing intense training workouts or playing in hot climates will likely need to supplement their water intake with electrolytes if playing longer than 60-90 minutes.
- HOW MUCH?: There is no single guideline for how much water you need and the old adage “drink 8 glasses of water per day” isn’t actually supported by scientific research. Hydration needs vary widely due to age, gender, size, health status and physical activity levels. That being said, here are a few rules to go by:
- Divide your kids body weight by 2 and that is the number of ounces he or she should aim to drink each day.
- For every 2 hours of playtime, your athlete should aim to drink about 16-24 ounces. Increase that to 28 ounces if temps are high.
- If your athlete is bigger than average, then add more.
- Be mindful of specific health concerns* and remind kids to listen to their thirst signals. How much is too much? There is such a thing as too much water especially if electrolytes are not replaced. If your athlete is participating in intense training workouts or playing in hot climates longer than 60-90 minutes, supplement with electrolyte drinks, tablets or powder**.
THE 3 BEST SPORTS DRINKS TO STAY HYDRATEDI've looked into this quite a bit and my recommendations might not brands you've heard of, but here are my top picks to stay hydrated before, during and after a game. (all of these can be purchased at Walmart or online)
- Skratch Labs Sports Hydration Mix
- Liquid IV Drink Mix
- Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets (avoid the flavors with caffeine)
Electrolytes are salts that ensure we have enough water being absorbed into the body’s cells to fuel it, instead of just peeing it out without proper absorption. That is why your sweaty skin might taste salty - salts have emerged through your skin’s pours as you sweat and need to be replaced during periods of regular intense or hot exercise.
Water brands that contain electrolytes do not typically have enough electrolytes in them to support players working out in the heat past 60-90 minutes.
There’s nothing wrong with electrolyte brand waters but do not rely on them to make up the difference. My favorite type of water (there are so many) is filtered mineral water.
Gatorade/Sports Drinks, pros and cons: So I don’t love Gatorade/sports drinks and rarely give them to my kids. They have a high amount of added sugars as well as less-than-ideal artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. Basically, they can be a lot of work for your body to process and get any benefit from. That being said, Gatorade does have water and electrolyte salts in it and is readily available at most ballpark concession stands.
HOW TO GET YOUR KID TO HYDRATE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
Don’t forget about foods that are high in fluid! In between games, in addition to protein, players should be eating:
These are great snack options during the week or on game days.
If you’re the parent of the player whose water bottle is still full at the end of a game, consider packing salty snacks in your kid’s bat bag. That will get them sipping their water bottle. Or mix a bit of coconut water, small amount of Gatorade powder or an electrolyte tablet in their water bottle to give it extra flavor that will keep them drinking.
DRINKS TO AVOID
Off the field, I urge you to avoid fruit juices, soft drinks and flavored mineral waters since they all contain sugar and are acidic, which can lead to tooth decay. Everyday consumption of sugary drinks like Gatorade, other sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonades, and sweet tea have been associated with obesity, weight gain, and high blood sugar. We are seeing higher and higher blood sugars numbers in our youth/teen athletes today and “drinking your sugars” is one of the worse contributors to this epidemic. Please teach your kid that water is the very best way to hydrate themselves during the week so they’ll be ready for game day.
Margaret Connor, MPH, NTP is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Functional Nutrition Counselor and Certified Holistic Health Coach.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The author of this program is not a physician or medical health practitioner, and makes no claims in this regard.