Is hydration important for gymnasts?

Yes, all athletes have hydration needs that are not the same as non-athletes. Performance is negatively affected before thirst is triggered. The sensation of thirst occurs when the water deficit is ~2% of body mass. Performance can start being impaired at a water loss of 1%. Performance is impaired by small fluid deficits because of a decrease in plasma volume, which is supported by fluids. Since fluids/plasma is how we deliver oxygen to the working muscles, any reduction could hamper performance. Below are guidelines gymnasts want to adhere to in order to maximize performance:

General Fluid Requirements

• Fluids should be cold, palatable, selected based on the type and duration of the activity.

• Sports drinks should contain 4-8% carbohydrate. Drinks greater than 10% carbohydrate may slow stomach emptying, cause abdominal cramping and impair performance.

• Solutions containing primarily fructose can cause an upset stomach and should be avoided.  Be sure to check the food label for ingredients.

Pre-exercise Guidelines

• Drink approximately 16 to 24 ounces of fluid two hours before activity.

• On warm or humid days, drink an additional 8-16 oz 30 to 60 minutes before activity.

• Water is adequate for activities less than an hour as long as meals are consumed regularly

• For endurance events, training sessions longer than 60 minutes, or multiple practices a day, choose a sport drink containing four to eight percent carbohydrate (e.g. Gatorade)

During Exercise

• Depending on your sport, consume 3-6oz of water or sports drink every 15 minutes.  This equates to approximately 32 ounces per hour.

• For prolonged exercise greater than 60 minutes, choose a sports drink with small amounts of electrolytes

Post-exercise Guidelines

• Immediately following activity, drink at least 16-20oz of fluid for every pound of weight lost to ensure proper rehydration.

• A liquid shake with high carbohydrate content, minimal protein and fat can refuel energy stores and maximize recovery after demanding training bouts. Consume this as soon as possible after workouts or events:

• Drink an additional 16 ounces with your post workout meal. This meal should be consumed within two hours after activity.

• Weigh yourself each morning.  A fairly stable weight generally indicates proper fluid balance

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