Why athletes should focus on drinking more water

Published 4:14 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

There have been a countless number of times in the last calendar year that I have seen a student-athlete drop to the ground, holding one of their limbs with a brutal cramp bringing them excruciating pain. People on the sidelines and stands that have experienced a cramp scrunches their faces, grits their teeth and braces for a pain that isn’t even their own. This is usually a sign of the body being dehydrated.

On many of those occasions someone, including myself, will drop a ‘Hey, lay off the sodas,’ because that is usually the culprit of these injuries. Many times the athlete will nod in agreement, because even they know the cause of their ailing.

There are several non-dehydration factors that can cause cramps, such as inadequate blood supply, nerve compression or mineral depletion — meaning there’s too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in the body — but the typical explanation is the lack of water.

The weather can also be a factor. On a hot summer or early fall afternoon, your water intake can completely deplete as quick as it was ingested.

Coaches should also be aware of the dangers of dehydration, and recognize when water breaks should be added more frequently to their practices.

Fluids help your muscles contract, relax and keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritable. During activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals and continue drinking water or other fluids after you have finished.

As tasty as an ice cold Coca-Cola can taste on a hot afternoon, soda offers no vitamins and minerals to bolster performance. If you’re an athlete trying to make a certain weight, soda adds unnecessary calories to your body, and it can also discourage you from drinking water. Believe it or not, sodas are addictive.

Sports drinks on the surface may seem good with the electrolytes they offer, but they have many of the same ingredients as soda.

The best bet for the highest-performance possible is to drink water early and often. Set consumption goals. For athletes, the suggested water intake is half your body weight in fluid ounces per day. For example, if a player weighs 150 pounds, they should drink 75 fluid ounces of water per day.

Setting goals to lower your soda intake — or here in the south, your sweet tea intake — and drinking more water will help your overall performance. You will feel better about yourself and you will experience a minimal amount of cramping.

Good luck to all of our athletes around Beaufort County, here’s to no injuries and no cramps for the 2020 calendar year.