Stay hydrated to combat illness

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Ethan Mattingly, Lincoln Trail Health Department

September is here, and school is in full swing, which means one thing — fall sports.

Fall brings with it the thought of Friday nights in jackets with hot cocoa on the football bleachers, or early Saturday mornings in sweat pants with coffee watching a cross country meet.

Don’t forget, however, that practices are still long and grueling, and September has been known to carry some scorching afternoons in its 30 days. With that being said, it’s important to make sure your fall athletes are staying properly hydrated despite the change in weather.

Becoming dehydrated can lead to a loss in strength and an increased perception of effort. Early symptoms of dehydration are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, headache and weakness. Heavy sweating is also a symptom, but due to Kentucky’s humid climate sweat does not evaporate as quickly as in other places, so it is important to stay aware of your level of hydration. If you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so prevent this by sipping water often throughout long practices and games.

Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated has many benefits. Besides combating the symptoms above (nausea, dizziness, weakness), water helps move food through the digestive system so energy can be obtained more easily. Also, having enough water in the body prevents muscle cramps, and stretching when well hydrated delivers fluids to the muscles so they move and function better. Being well hydrated is important to keep muscles, joints and tendons lubricated so as to prevent injuries such as pulls, tears and sprains.

There are several ways to stay hydrated. The easiest way is to drink plenty of water. General recommendations are about 100 ounces for men and 85 ounces for women per day. Fluids can also be obtained from foods. Grapefruit, watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries are all great choices to rehydrate, as they are composed of at least 90 percent water and provide some nutrients and quick energy to get you back in action.

Cut grapefruit into small sections and have small chunks of the other fruits on hand to grab a handful during timeouts, halftimes, or between races.  

Many people rely on sugary “sports” drinks to stay hydrated. While the claims of replacing electrolytes and rehydrating make sense, beverages focused toward sports often have inappropriate amounts of sodium, potassium and chloride (electrolytes) for replenishing what is lost in sweat. These drinks also have high amounts of added sugar, which can slow you down and cause discomfort in intense sports.

A more natural alternative to sports drinks is flavored coconut water.

Unlike sports drinks, whose electrolytes are added, coconut water provides a natural supply of electrolytes and no added sweeteners.

So while we have those cool fall nights to look forward to, don’t forget to stay hydrated while practicing and throughout games to prevent issues that can put you on the sidelines.

Ethan Mattingly is a WKU dietetic intern at Lincoln Trail District Health Department.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics eatright.org