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Helpful Hydration Hints


Lleyton Hewitt© Getty ImagesHydrating before, during and after matches is critical, particularly when playing in heat.

As physical tests go, playing in the heat and humidity of the North American hard court swing – including the US Open – is about as tough as it gets. To perform at their best, ATP World Tour pros must pay particular attention to being well hydrated before, during and after matches. Although you may never have to go the distance with Rafa in searing heat and humidity in Cincinnati or New York, you can still apply hydration lessons learned from the pros to your own matches when you’re playing in the heat.

Proper hydration before, during and after a match depends on many individual variables. Players need to develop their own drinking strategies. While there is no single hydration formula that fits everybody, Dr. Gary Windler, Medical Advisor to the ATP World, Tour says that adhering to a few practical tips will help you to stay well-hydrated for your match. “Beginning a match properly hydrated is probably the most important thing a player can do to prepare for a match,” Dr. Windler says. “If you start out low on fluids you're likely to get further behind during the match, especially if you’re a heavy sweater.”


Pre-match Drinking Strategy
There are no absolute guidelines for how much you should drink throughout the day to prepare for a match. It depends on the individual. But one simple strategy Dr. Windler recommends is to make sure to drink 250 – 500 ml. (1 – 2 cups) with every meal and snack. In addition, try to drink 500 – 750ml. (2 – 3 cups) in the hour or two before your match.

“If you’re urine is very pale yellow or nearly clear, that’s a good indication that you are properly hydrated going into your match,” says Dr. Windler.

Match Drinking Strategy
While drinking water before a match is fine, during a match you may want to consider using sports drinks or a combination of sports drinks and water. Because you are burning carbohydrates to fuel your muscles and you’re losing electrolytes through sweat, water alone cannot replace what you need in long, tough matches, particularly in hot and humid conditions.

The most important elements of sports drinks, aside from the fluids, are carbohydrates and electrolytes. Carbohydrates replenish energy stores, which is especially important if you are going to be playing for longer than an hour. Replacing electrolytes, particularly sodium, can help to ward off muscle cramps, a common problem during long matches in hot and humid conditions.

A simple strategy to stay hydrated during a match is to drink about 125ml. (1/2 cup) on every changeover. Never wait until you start to feel thirsty to begin drinking. When playing in the heat, be sure your drinks are cool. Avoid drinking too much since your stomach and digestive tract can generally only absorb about 1 – 1.5 litres/ hr. Over-drinking, especially fluids high in carbohydrates, can lead to bloating and vomiting.

Post-match Drinking Strategy
Weighing yourself before and after a match is the best indicator of how well you’ve kept up with your sweat (fluid) loss. If your fluid intake has been insufficient, your weight loss will be an indication of how much you need to drink to get yourself adequately rehydrated.

Ideally, you should weigh the same after a match as when you began. However, some individuals can sweat out more than 2 litres per hour. So many players, especially heavy sweaters, will often end up with a significant deficit at the end of a match. Generally speaking you need to consume about 1.3 litres of fluid for every kilogram (20 ounces for every pound) of weight lost.
And you not only want to replace water; you need to replace sodium and rapidly replenish carbohydrate stores (glycogen). You can replace sodium with sports drinks, salted foods and snacks and by adding salt to your food. If you have hypertension or other medical conditions which may require limiting salt intake, check with your physician before reaching for the salt shaker. Carbohydrate intake can be achieved with sports drinks, energy bars and foods rich in carbohydrates.

Dr Windler says that if you don’t remember anything else about hydration, remember this: “Walk out onto the court properly hydrated. That’s crucial. And once on the court, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking.”

Did You Know?
By the time you are thirsty you have usually lost 2% to 3% of your body weight in water. At 2% of body weight lost, performance starts to drop off and at 3% you enter the risk zone for heat illness


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