Football on its own is demanding enough, but hot, humid summertime two-a-days make it even tougher. Players need to pay close attention to their hydration, drinking plenty of fluids—both water and sports drinks. Doing so not only boosts your on-field performance, it also helps guard against heat stroke and illness.
Here are four ways to make sure your fluid, energy and electrolyte levels are right where they should be. (See Preparing for Two-a-Days: Strategies for Nutrition and Hydration.)
Stay Ahead of the Game
Never allow thirst to be your guide. Athletes usually don’t feel thirsty until it’s too late; an excessive amount of fluid has already been lost. That means dehydration is about to set in, with fun side effects like fatigue, exhaustion, muscle cramps, headaches, thirst and dizziness. (See Preventing Dehydration.)
Have a Plan
According to experts, players should drink 12 ounces of fluid about 15 minutes before rigorous activity begins. Once the game is underway, have a drink every 20 minutes during the first hour to replenish fluid loss. Sports drinks can be especially helpful since they replace lost electrolytes.
Skip the Soda
Yes, you want to be psyched up for your game and feel energetic. But caffeinated drinks like soda or coffee aren’t the answer. They provide “perceived” energy, not real energy that powers your muscles. Worse, caffeinated drinks can send your heart rate into overdrive and, in some instances, lead to other medical issues such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
Watch Your Output
It’s easy for hydration to fall by the wayside as a long day’s practice wears on, but thankfully there’s a simple way to tell if you’re drinking enough fluids: Check your urine. If it’s clear or light in color, you’re getting enough water and other liquids—keep it up. If it’s darker in color, go hit the drinking fountain and stay there for a bit. And if it’s really dark—like apple cider—tell your team trainer, stat.