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All about hydration for athletes!

Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of healthy physical activity. Drinking the right amount of fluids before, during and after exercise is vital to providing your body with the fluids it needs to perform well.

Hydration target
The overall goal is to minimize dehydration without drinking too much. Adequate hydration varies from person to person. Practical ways to monitor hydration include:

* Urine color. The color of the urine in the morning after getting up is a general indicator of hydration status. Strawberry or lemonade colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration. Dark colored urine, the color of apple juice, indicates dehydration. Clear urine is often produced soon after eating vitamin supplements.

* Sweat loss. Change in body weight before and after exercise is used to estimate sweat loss. Since an athlete's sweat loss during exercise is an indicator of hydration status, athletes are advised to follow customized fluid replacement plans that take into account thirst, urine color, fluid intake, sweat loss, and body weight changes that occur during exercise.

Minimize dehydration
Dehydration can occur in almost any physical activity scenario. It doesn't have to be hot. You don't have to perspire visibly. You can dry out in the water, by a pool or lake, or ski on a winter's day.

Dehydration occurs when athletes cannot replace enough fluids lost through sweating. Since dehydration is greater than a 2 percent loss of body weight, it impairs sports performance. Athletes are advised to start well hydrated, minimize dehydration during exercise and replace fluid loss after exercise.

Be alert to conditions that increase moisture loss through sweat.
* Air temperature:The higher the temperature, the greater your sweat loss.
* Intensity:The harder you exercise, the more you perspire.
* Body size and gender:taller people sweat more. Men generally sweat more than women.
* Duration:The longer the workout, the more fluid loss.
* Fitness:Well-trained athletes perspire more than less fit people. Why? In athletes, their bodies cool down through sweat more efficiently than most people because their bodies are used to extra stress. The fluid requirement is therefore higher for well-trained athletes than for less well-performing individuals.

Remember that swimmers sweat too. Like any athletic activity, when you swim, your body temperature rises and your body sweats to avoid overheating. You may not notice it because you are in the water, but you can become dehydrated. Everyone should drink before, during and after swimming, even if you are not thirsty.

Warning signs
Know the signs of dehydration.

Early signs are:
Red skin
Premature fatigue
Increased body temperature
Faster breathing and pulse
Increased perception of exertion
Reduced exercise capacity

Later signs include:
Increased weakness
Difficult breathing with exercise

Replacing fluids
Replace fluids during exercise to promote adequate hydration. Drink water instead of pouring it over your head. Drinking is the only way to rehydrate and cool your body from within. Sports drinks are more appropriate than water for athletes who engage in moderate to high intensity exercise lasting an hour or more. Rehydrate after exercise by drinking enough fluids to replace fluid loss during exercise.