As a professional athlete, you need to pay attention to ALL aspects of your game. Hydration is one critical component to good preparation and recovery that is sometimes underemphasized. Good hydration habits not only help a player to optimize performance, but also help to reduce the risk of exertional heat illness. Adequate water intake should be the principal focus of maintaining hydration, but sport drinks can at times enhance performance by delaying the onset of fatigue and preventing dehydration.
What should I look for in a Sports Drink?
1. Sport drinks should focus on the primary nutrients in the appropriate amounts that are needed before, during and after play: WATER, CARBOHYDRATE & ELECTROLYTES. Protein (or additional amino acids) and higher levels of carbohydrate are more effective for after play.
2. Choose a sport drink that also tastes good, so you will want to drink it!
3. Choose a Non-carbonated sport drink. Carbonation can make you feel full, so you won’t drink as much.
4. Be careful with caffeine. While low-moderate caffeine intake has been shown to be effective in delaying fatigue, too much can interfere with performance and health.
Key Factors for Ultimate Hydration & Performance:
All sport drinks contain mostly water. On court, you can offset much of your fluid loss from sweating by drinking a combination of sports drink & water. Most players can comfortably drink about 1 to 1.5 liters each hour during play or practice.
- One way to measure how much fluid you have to replace after play is to weigh yourself pre- and post-match.
- For each 1 kg of body weight you lose by the end of play or practice, you have to drink about 1-1.5 liters of fluid (or 16-20 oz of fluid for each pound lost).
- Use the scales provided at tournaments to monitor your fluid loss and determine your rehydration needs. Remember to weigh yourself in minimal (same) clothes before and after play, for the most accurate measurement.
- As little as 2% loss of body weight can significantly affect performance. A loss of 4% or more of body weight can be DANGEROUS, as this level of dehydration will certainly increase the risk of exertional heat illness & collapse and potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- When you feel thirsty, you may be already 1 - 2% dehydrated…
Drinking too much water or too much low-sodium fluid can also lead to problems. Excess water in the blood indicated by a low blood sodium level (hyponatremia) can readily occur by rapidly drinking too much water or other low-sodium fluids. Signs and symptoms can range from fatigue, nausea, & headache to muscle cramps, seizure, or even worse!
DRINKING WATER ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR ADEQUATE REHYDRATION!
A properly formulated sport drink with the right amount of sodium and carbohydrate helps you to distribute and retain fluid, fuels the body and delays the onset of fatigue.
2. CARBOHYDRATE needs should be primarily provided by carbohydrate-rich foods during regular meals & snacks. A sports drink can provide additional energy on court (via carbohydrates) that will help you to perform at your best.
DURING PLAY, look for sports drink that provides:
- About 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per liter (L). Sports drinks with this level of carbohydrate will empty from the stomach quickly and provide enough fuel for performance.
- Look for a carbohydrate blend to maximize absorption (Glucose, fructose, sucrose or a glucose polymer- such as Maltodextrin).
- This will give you QUICK ENERGY, because this amount/type of carbohydrate will be absorbed into your bloodstream rapidly.
AFTER PLAY, you can drink a sports drink as listed above or a drink with a higher carbohydrate content and some protein to help repair muscle.
3. ELECTROLYTES, SODIUM & CHLORIDE (which forms salt) are the most abundant electrolytes lost in sweating.
- With adequate salt intake, your body can transport water to and around the muscles more efficiently and effectively. That is, you will maintain hydration better.
- Potassium, magnesium and calcium are also lost through sweat, but in much smaller amounts, and it is unlikely you would have a deficiency in these minerals.
- The best treatment for heat-related muscle cramps is adequate salt & fluid intake, not potassium or any potassium-rich food (such as bananas). NOTE: Sudden onset of cramping in a single muscle or muscle group is more likely due to muscle overload – not an electrolyte deficiency.
- Everyone differs in electrolyte losses; therefore supplemental electrolytes (e.g. adding salt to sports drinks) should be individualized – that is, according to YOUR losses and needs.
4. THE OTHER INGREDIENTS found in some sport drinks, such as herbs, chromium, various vitamins, carnitine or lactate, are non-essential nutrients, and may actually HURT your performance and negatively affect your health.
How Much Sports Drink & Water is Enough?
- Bring about three 0.5 Liter (20 oz) bottles of an anti-doping approved Sports Drink & at least two 0.5 Liter (20 oz) bottles of water on court for EACH match. Alternate between drinking sports drink & water on EVERY change of ends.
- Ensure you are mixing your own drinks, initialing your bottles, and opening your own bottles on court. You should be the only one breaking the seal of every drink you consume to ensure compliance with the anti-doping program.
- In hot & humid environments, you should bring additional bottles of an anti-doping approved Sports Drink & water on court for matches. You will be sweating more, and will have a greater fluid loss to replace.
- In general, including for indoor play, one (1) liter of an anti-doping approved Sports Drink (35 oz, containing about 60g Carbohydrate), and up to 0.5 liter of water should be consumed for each hour of tennis.
Should I Add Salt?
- If you have experienced heat-related muscle cramps or heat illness: Trial about 1 packet of salt (1/8 teaspoon) OR ½ packet to each 0.5 liter bottle of an anti-doping approved Sports Drink for play.
- For hot & humid environments, ALL PLAYERS should add 1/8 tsp of salt OR ½ packet to each 0.5 Liter bottle of an anti-doping approved Sports Drink.
- If you don’t like the taste of salt in your sports drink…you can add extra salt to your food. Try adding soy sauce, eating pretzels or adding salt to your diet in other ways.
- Taking Salt tablets alone (without taking a sufficient amount of water) is NOT recommended because the potential high concentration of sodium in your gastrointestinal tract can cause undesirable effects. Also, any time you are considering taking a supplement, be mindful of anti-doping regulations. Always check any supplements with IDTM before you take them.
5. RECOVERY DRINKS
- Low fat flavored milk and fruit smoothies are an ideal recovery drink.
- They contain ideal carbohydrate, protein and fluid ratio of 3:1which helps to speed recovery.
- Ideally, you should drink this within 30 minutes following a match, training or practice.
The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.