The Importance of Hydration For Athletic Performance

The following article was written by Gary Roberts, NHL veteran forward who now owns and operates Gary Roberts Training

Roberts will contribute more information to Neutral Zone readers. Click here to access Gary’s at-home training programs delivered on the Gary Roberts training appNeutral Zone readers earn 10% discount when applying Neutral Zone promo code NZ10 at checkout. Athlete’s living in America should note, the Canadian dollar is 40 cents to the American dollar! This means close to 50% savings!!!

The off-season is a good time to work on creating good habits. One habit all athletes need to prioritize is consistently drinking water throughout the day. The importance of hydration for athletes is well known but hydration goes well beyond replacing sweat loss. Whether or not the water you are drinking gets into the cells and how your cells use that water is a critical and often overlooked aspect. We cannot store large amounts of water in our bodies so that is why it is crucial to always be replenishing, although we might overlook drinking water it is the most important nutrient, as it makes up the majority of our bodies. 

Water regulates athletes’ temperature and also plays a big role in muscle contraction. Focusing on hydration helps to prevent a decrease in physical performance and reduces the risk of heat stress- which can be a common issue with athletes training hard in the off-season. Athletes need to stay hydrated before, during, and after physical exertion to optimize performance. 

Water is involved in the majority of chemical reactions involved in athletic performance including:

ï      Elevates the health and integrity of every cell in the body

ï      Regulates body temperature and cools the body down through sweating

ï      Assists in blood circulation helping to carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells 

ï      Aids digestion and flushes toxins and waste from the body 

ï      Directs our metabolism converting food to usable energy

ï      Protects and cushions our organs

ï      Boosts cognitive function

Here are a couple key factors to boosting hydration: 

Balance electrolytes:  

Electrolytes give water it’s electricity charge, which is incredibly important for cellular communication. The electrolytes that you should pay attention to in your diet for hydration and balance are:

  • Magnesium found in dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds, avocado, legumes, and dark chocolate.
  • Potassium found in avocados, sweet potato, squash, and beans.
  • Sodium and calcium are typically abundant in our diets – but it is important to take note that when you sweat you might need additional sodium. A good way to get in extra sodium is to add a pinch of mineral sea salt into your water first thing in the morning or around workouts.

Eat fibre rich foods:

Fibre along with hydration helps to create bulk in your stool as well as improve the absorption and assimilation of nutrients into your cells. 

Foods high in fibre include: 

  • Fruits like apples, bananas, berries etc. 
  • Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kale etc. 
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts etc. 
  • Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds etc. 
  • Beans and legumes like black beans, lentils etc. 
  • Grains like quinoa, rice, buckwheat etc. 

Eat foods high in water. 

Eating foods high in water content will add to hydration levels. 

Include foods like:

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach 
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussel sprouts 
  • Oranges 
  • Apples 

Add other fluids: 

Include drinks such as: 

  • Herbal tea 
  • Smoothies 
  • Coconut water 
  • Milk alternatives (almond, coconut, hemp etc.)
  • Sparkling mineral water with lemon 
  • Natural vegetable and fruit juices 

Try to avoid drinking too many of the following drinks which can work against your hydration levels: 

  • Coffee 
  • Soda 
  • Processed Fruit Juices 
  • Alcohol
  • Energy Drinks 

Pay attention to quality of water:

For athletes and active people, it’s important to drink water high in minerals, natural spring water being the preferred option. 

Although true hydration comes down to more than just drinking water, you don’t want to be playing catch up. We recommend you carry around a water bottle and sip continuously throughout the day not just around exercise for the best results.