From the stuff we drink and swim in, to the steam that eases congestion and the ice that reduces swelling, water is all around us (and even in us).
Heck, it kind of is us.
That probably explains why we feel better when we’re drinking enough of it.
To learn exactly how water can help you as an athlete, as well as some creative ways to use it, check out these 14 tips on why you should find some water right now.
It powers you up in the heat.
If you play a sport that happens to be played in the summer during the warmer months, staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do. The hotter it is and the harder you are working, the sweatier you tend to get, so it’s extra important to replace those lost fluids. Determining sweat rate informs good rehydration strategy: “Once an athlete [knows his or her] sweat rate, they can begin to practice replacing these fluid losses in training and be optimally prepared for [athletic exertion],” says Casa.
It helps endurance athletes fight fatigue.
Water is an integral part for all athletes when practicing and competing, but it becomes especially important in order to prevent dehydration during long periods of activity. When training for an hour or more, drinking water treated with carbohydrates and salts can help maintain fluid balance, which aids athletic performance and helps prevent post-exercise fatigue and exhaustion.
It can improve mood.
This may sound silly to you as an athlete, but drinking water makes us feel so refreshed that it actually improves our state of mind. You don’t even have to be severely in need of it to benefit: Even mild dehydration has been shown to negatively impact moods. Wouldn’t you rather be refreshed and happy when competing compared to being negative and down in the dumps?
Drinking it may help prevent headaches, naturally.
Going without water for too long causes headaches for some people, and has been identified as a migraine trigger. My son gets migraines when he gets dehydrated, therefore, that is why we are always trying to stay on top of his water intake, especially when he is competing in tennis tournaments. The good news is that in a study on the effects of water on headaches, participants experienced “total relief” from their headaches within 30 minutes of drinking water (two cups, on average). Kate Geagan, RD, nutritionist and Camelbak expert says a good way to prevent headaches is to stay hydrated throughout the day. And if you’ve already been hit with a dehydration-triggered headache, you’ll need significantly more water to help it go away. She recommends drinking two to four cups of water for headache relief within one to two hours.
It energizes us.
Next time you’re feeling zonked before a game or match, try drinking a couple glasses of water. Feeling tired is one of the first signs of dehydration and filling back up on H2O could zap the sleepiness.
It may help keep us alert.
If you’re going to need to concentrate for long periods of time, keep water handy to help you stay refreshed, hydrated, and focused: Dehydration can impair your attention span, memory, and motor skills. No matter what sport you play, being alert when competing is very important.
It protects our joints and cartilage.
Most of you athletes reading this post are only in high school and young enough that you are probably not to concerned about your joints and cartilage, right now. However, if you have a desire to play your sport beyond high school and later, water keeps the cartilage around our joints hydrated and supple, ensuring that our joints stay lubricated. It also protects our spinal cord and tissues, keeping us healthy from the inside out. Geagan explains that cartilage—the rubbery material that coats our bones—is about 85 percent water. To keep this protective material healthy, we need to keep hydrated.
It helps us think more clearly.
Dehydration causes shrinkage of brain tissue. So when we haven’t been drinking enough water, our brains have to work a lot harder to perform at the same level. One study even found that students who brought water to tests did better on their exams. When you need to make that snap decision, it’s probably a good idea that you are thinking as clear as possible.
Eating it hydrates us—deliciously.
Yes, you can eat water. How? Water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber, celery, watermelon, and strawberries contain minerals, salts, and natural sugars the body needs for optimum hydration levels, so eating them can sometimes rehydrate us more effectively (and a lot more tastily) than water alone.
It balances our fluids.
As mentioned, about two-thirds of the human body is made of water, and keeping our fluids balanced means that all that water is doing its job—transporting nutrients, aiding digestion, regulating temperature, and so on.
Swimming around in it works out the body and mind.
Looking for some training to assist with your fitness level for your sport? Swimming has been found to improve long-term physical and mental health and is a great option for anyone who wants an impact-free cardio workout. Those seeking peace of mind might consider diving in too; spending time in the pool is believed to reduce depression.
When frozen, it provides pain and swelling relief for soft tissue injuries.
Ice has been shown to be an effective short-term therapy for sprains and strains. Cold packs reduce blood flow and swelling in the affected area and also treat pain. You can never have to many ice packs on hand when competing in a sport.
Spending time in cold water is good for athletes.
Studies show that immersion in cold water is beneficial for sustained athletic performance in the heat, and for treating muscle damage after exercise. On hot days, immersion in cold water can keep body temperatures level and blood flowing.
Shoveling after a heavy snowfall makes for great cardio.
Okay, so snow’s not exactly water, but it’s definitely similar enough! Looking for a different kind of workout? Try shoveling the driveway after a snowstorm. In fact, shoveling snow makes demands on the body similar to a treadmill workout at maximum effort. As long as you’re already in good cardiovascular health, grab a snow shovel the next time heavy snowfall sidetracks your workout plans!
One final thing. Consistency is the key here. All of these water strategies are proven, but I can’t promise you overnight results. Stick to them and you will eventually feel fresher when competing and training.
One thing that I can’t stress enough is that water consumption is key in sports performance.
Did I leave out any water tips that have worked well for you?