A recent Chicago Tribune article explained the dangers of dehydration are overblown. ISU’s athletic trainers disagree.
“Issues like cramps, overheating and headaches are your body’s way of telling you hey, you need to drink more water,” Kristin Willeford, graduate assistant in athletic training, said.
Trainers give athletes the tools they need to take control of their own hydration through education and providing beverages during games and practices, but they do not badger the athletes to make sure they have been drinking enough — unless, Willeford said, they start having problems.
“We get a lot of guys during summer training who come to us with issues of cramps, overheating and headaches, and the first thing we ask them is whether they’re drinking enough water,” she added. “It’s really more of a personal thing. It’s on the athletes.”
John Munn, head athletic trainer, agrees that hydration is vital, especially for combating health problems like heat strokes. However, he stresses that not every athlete needs to be concerned about replacing electrolytes.
“I don’t think that hydration is overemphasized; many athletes, and people, are usually a little dehydrated. But I think sports drink marketing has gotten into our heads a little bit,” Munn said. “The importance of drinking sports drinks and replacing electrolytes has been overblown as a marketing ploy.”
“There’s a huge difference between a recreational athlete and someone who’s really pushing themselves. If you take a walk or go to a yoga class, you’re fine bringing a water bottle. But for football players on a 90 degree day, it’s important to constantly push fluids. These guys are worn out, sweating profusely and it’s not uncommon for them to lose between 4 and 5 percent of their body weight during one practice session,” Munn said.
Any athlete who’s working hard, especially on a hot day, and is sweating a lot should try to switch between water and sports drinks.
Munn said athletes must be careful of what is leaving their body as they workout, as well as what is coming in as a result.
The athletic trainers don’t set a regular amount of water or sports drinks that athletes should consume each day.
“It really depends on the person,” Willeford said. “A 300 pound linebacker needs a lot more than a smaller guy.”
That is why guidelines are seen as problematic at times. Munn advises athletes and avid exercisers to listen to their bodies.
Both Munn and Willeford pointed to urine color as a good measurement of hydration.
“I tell the athletes that if you’re hydrated, it should be anywhere from clear to very pale lemonade,” Munn said.
Hydration is not the only factor in athletic performance though. Getting enough sleep and eating healthy are both just as important.
Protein replacement is also key after a hard workout, Munn said. In order to excel, athletes should focus on all areas of physical health, as rest and nutrition are just as vital as hydration.