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England lock Simon Shaw drinking during a training session in Portugal

Photo: Getty Images

Water is the most important part of any nutrition programme, and adequate hydration is a crucial part of health and performance. Even a small water loss can impair both physical and mental function. Thirst is a very poor indicator of how dehydrated you are or have become.  By the time you feel thirsty you may have lost 2-3% of your body water and on a match day or during training this will have a very big impact on your performance.

Being well hydrated improves how you feel and how you perform. To stay hydrated you may also use fruit and herbal teas, or water flavoured with a little fresh fruit juice.

Note: All fluid quantities provided are a guideline only, and refer to elite adult athletes. They should not be used by children.

Top Tips For Staying Hydrated

  • If you’re properly hydrated your urine should be pale and clear.  If it’s dark and strong smelling, you’re dehydrated
  • Start the day with a glass of water. Alternatively a mug of freshly boiled water and a slice of lemon. In summer add a fresh sprig of mint and fresh lemon slices to a jug of cold water
  • Drink little and often through the day and more during training
  • Drink from a bottle of water to measure daily intake until you are used to drinking enough
  • Elite athletes should drink a minimum of three litres a day plus whatever is required during training. NOTE: This quanitity is a guideline for adult elite athletes and should not be used by children
  • In training, consume at least 250ml of fluid every 15 minutes
  • Drink during a game whenever it is offered
  • Drink cool fluids as they are absorbed faster
  • Avoid carbonated or fizzy drinks, they are commonly very high in refined sugars and contain a lot of gas that will leave you feeling full before you are hydrated
  • Pre-hydrate by drinking a little extra fluid in the 2 days before a game
  • Weigh yourself before and after training. A one kilogram loss of body weight represents a need for at least 1.2 litres of fluid to be replaced
  • The use of isotonic drinks after a match or in training speeds up fluid replacement and maintains blood sugar levels during training and playing. They also help you retain more fluid than water alone as they contain electrolytes
  • Re-hydrate properly by drinking before you begin to eat any high sugar food or drinks, since these will slow down the rate that you are able to absorb the fluids you require
  • A large amount of caffeine or alcohol is bad news, so don’t have more than two or three cups of coffee or tea a day or one to two units of alcohol. Both are recognised to have a diuretic effect, producing more urine, and causing you to become dehydrated further 
  • Thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration. If you use thirst as your guide, you can be 50-70% more dehydrated than by following the guidelines above

Athletes can learn how to assess their hydration by using a urine colour chart (MS Word DOC 30kB). It is a simple reference tool that allows you to use your urine colour to indicate whether your body has adequate fluids to stay properly hydrated.


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