Staying hydrated is crucial to healthy living, considering the body is comprised between 55 and 75 per cent water.
While in extreme circumstances we can survive weeks without food, we’d only last a couple of days without water. That’s because it’s involved in almost all of our bodily functions; it helps regulate body temperature, removes wastes and toxins, assists in the circulatory process, maintains the health of cells, moisturises the skin, and protects against disease.
Hydration becomes even more important when playing tennis – our fluid levels need to be replenished more rapidly and regularly because we’re sweating more.
Are you dehydrated?
There are some tell-tale signs that you may not be getting enough fluids – the obvious ones are feelings of thirst, darker urine or less frequent urination, headaches, and dry or cracked lips.
But there are some other symptoms that may not be immediately associated with dehydration. You could feel nauseous, weak or lethargic, or experience mood swings, confusion or hallucinations. Some people may even mistake their thirst for hunger.
How to hydrate
Luckily, dehydration is easily avoided – or countered – by increasing your fluid intake.
When exercising, training or competing, it’s important that you hydrate beforehand. A good rule of thumb is to drink half a litre (500 ml) of water in the one or two hours prior; this can be easily achieved just by having a bottle of water handy.
During exercise, aiming for between 250 ml and 500 ml of fluids every 30 minutes is a good approach, although the level may vary depending on the temperature and intensity of exercise. Scheduling in regular breaks to drink during training, or drinking at every change of ends during a match, will ensure you have plenty of opportunities to replenish your fluid levels and ward off dehydration.
Following physical activity, it is important to keep drinking to ensure you’re rehydrated – being able to pass a high volume of clear urine is a good sign that this is the case.
Water versus sports drinks
In most instances, water – which contains no kilojoules – is the best option for hydration.
Yet sports drinks have their place; with electrolytes to assist in fluid absorption and carbohydrates as a source of fuel, they’re good options in warmer conditions and if you’re lacking food. Plus, being flavoured, they’re often more palatable.
If you find water a bit boring, adding lemon, lime or mint can make it a bit more exciting. And while they certainly shouldn’t replace your water consumption, tea, milk, fruit juice and foods with a high water content – like fruits and vegetables – also count towards your fluid intake.