The Importance of Hydration For Women Who Work Out

The issue of hydration and athletes is a serious issue.  Researchers find it important enough to take sweat samples from hot, stinky soccer players to measure the contents of their sweat.  The purpose of such studies is to measure what is lost in sweat and then devise a method for best replenishing the lost elements.

Hydration should be a concern in every athletic and fitness endeavor, but with summer underway, hydrating our athletes becomes increasingly important..

After reviewing several research articles and seeking the help of a colleague, Alex Rosenzweig a former trainer to the Chicago Bears, I have compiled guidelines concerning female teenage athletes and their hydration requirements.

Dehydration, including acute levels, will affect the athlete physiologically, mechanically, and mentally. (D.A. Judelson, 2007)  The symptoms of dehydration are not as obvious or dramatic as we may believe.

Therefore, communication is the key for preventing dehydration.

A quick practical way to test the athlete’s dehydration level after exercise is to ask her to lick her upper lip after a game/practice.  If it taste like she licked a plate of salt, it is safe to say she has hydration issues that need to be addressed.

The athlete taking responsibility for hydration falls into a category of “silent training”.  This type of training involves addressing issues that concern athletic endeavors but do not involve movement or playing the actual sport.  This needs to be addressed before, during, and after games/practices.  The actions necessary to fully recover from intense bouts of exercise are covered in this article.

Hydration- The Basics (R.J. Maughan, 2004)

  • Thirst is not an indicator of fluid needs. By the time an athlete feels thirsty dehydration is already occurring. As a result, many athletes come to practice already dehydrated.
  • Dehydration of greater than 3% of body weight increases an athlete’s risk of heat illness (heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke)
  • Dehydration of just 1%-2% of body weight (only 1.5-3 lbs. For a 150 lb. athlete) can negatively affect performance.
  • The need for replacing sodium, chloride, and potassium (electrolytes) is important. The need to replace sodium is greater. This is because both muscle tissue and neurons are considered electric tissues of the body. Muscles and neurons are activated by electrolyte activity.
  • When an athlete is menstruating, the need for electrolyte intake is higher.(S.T. Sims, 2007)
  • And of course, the reliable humidity of the mid-Atlantic is a dangerous mix for athletic competitions and dehydration.

Pedialyte- The new Gatorade?

It was safe enough for them during infancy.  Pedialyte is an oral electrolyte solution.  Gatorade is a “sports drink”.  Take a look at the ingredients on a Gatorade bottle.  You will find the second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.  High fructose corn syrup is controversial among health professionals and the corn industry.  I do know for certain that HFCS is very inexpensive.  According to leading natural health industry leaders; tests that were done in 2005 confirmed that 1/3 of HFCS products contain some amount of mercury (Sanda, 2010).  When an excess of fructose is metabolized, HFCS, the liver cannot accommodate, causing higher insulin levels.  What does this mean for athletic activity?  Insulin is the anti-exercise hormone.  Insulin has an immense impact on metabolism by controlling the tissues to uptake glucose from the blood. Insulin levels decrease during exercise because the muscles are metabolizing glucose, so insulin has no role during exercise.  If insulin levels increase during and before exercise, the endurance and performance of the athlete is compromised.  The risk of dehydration increases as well.

Besides HFCS being the work of the devil, Pedialyte has more sodium and potassium than Gatorade.  Pedialyte also has the better balance of electrolytes.

The criticism for Pedialyte is that the product may not have enough carbohydrates to serve the working muscles.  Alex Rosenzweig, formerly on the training staff for professional baseball and football teams, responds, “The only activity that requires the replenishment of carbohydrate is endurance activity lasting 1.5 -2 plus hours.  Carbohydrate intake during high intensity has shown little evidence of being effective at improving performance in the literature.  It is hydration aspect that effects the neural transmission (also cramping) during intense activity.  But then again many people still see soccer as an endurance event.  Those would be the same people that say you should take in carbohydrates.”  I would like to add that since Gatorade has more carbohydrates than Pedialyte, insulin secretion will increase with the ingestion of Gatorade.  That is in addition to the reaction of the high fructose corn syrup.    As we established earlier, insulin is the anti-exercise hormone.  There are more in depth reasons an athlete does not want to secrete insulin during intense activity.

I’m not implying that athletes do not use carbohydrates for fuel during exercise.  The muscles do indeed use stored carbohydrates for exercise, but the need to replenish them during exercise is unnecessary.  Carbohydrates should be replenished within 2 hours of intense exercise not during. For more information:  Physiology Spark Notes

Drinking electrolyte guidelines (for more exact amounts for each athlete according to their body weight and position, see me)

1.  Drink electrolyte balanced liquid during, after, and before exercise.

2.  During activity: every 20 minutes played, drink 5- 7 ounces of liquid.

Gatorade is the least effective sports drink.  A study examining 4 different sports drinks from 2007, concluded that a mix of water and apple juice is more effective than Gatorade at re-hydrating and replenishing lost electrolytes. (Shirrifs, 2007)  Plain water is also less desirable.  Water with added electrolytes is a great choice.  G2, Vitamin Water, and Powerade are better choices.  Pedialyte or even diluted Pedialyte (I like grape and pineapple flavors, please stay away from plain yuck) is the best choice.

Jennifer Schwartz
is the creator of Impact Fitness DC, a fitness concept that specializes in the success of the female athlete and offers private training to women of all ages.


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