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Cal South E-News | May 2010 NUTRITION EDUCATION

May 20, 2010

Nutrition Education provided by NSCAA

Yes, Eight Glasses a Day

Water intake is still all-important, and many other fluids don't count

by Laurie Evans

Most people underestimate the simple act of drinking water. The human body is about 75 percent water and everyone should know that proper hydration is important to keep your body functioning at its best. Even more important to remember is that the human brain is about 85 percent water. The brain gets priority when it comes to hydrating. If you fail to drink enough water, it is the rest of the body that suffers first.

Keeping your body properly hydrated is as crucial as maintaining an engine's oil level. This is especially true for young people, whose bodies are still growing and developing. Engines will run for a while with the oil low, but eventually they break down and stop running. Dehydration is an accumulative process, and health professionals are finding chronic dehydration to be increasingly common. The cure is the simple act of drinking water. Nothing can replace the importance of plain water.

Everyone should be drinking the minimum amount that doctors have long told us we need. That is a total of eight to 10 eight-ounce servings of water daily to function normally. When you are using extra energy competing in sports, your water intake should be increased. It used to be thought that simply drinking when thirsty was sufficient, but modern research is showing that thirst is a symptom of already being dehydrated. Drinking 60-80 ounces of water per day is important maintenance. It is also important to remember that an increased water intake has a tendency to flush sodium from your system, so one electrolyte beverage per day should be part of any hydration regimen.

There are quite a few electrolyte replacement drinks, but these drinks should not be used as a replacement for water. Coaches, parents and adult players teach by example. What kind of example is being set in the hydrating department? Next to dedication and skill, bodies are the most important piece of competitive equipment in the game. Is chronic dehydration a problem for your team?

Are you aware of the signs of chronic dehydration? They include muscle and joint pain, back pain, stress, allergies and asthma. Do you recognize any of these symptoms? Know your players and watch for signs. Research has even found possible links between chronic dehydration and Alzheimer's disease. It has long been believed that consuming any fluids would keep the body running properly. New studies, however, show that water and only water can do this, so don't underestimate the importance of establishing a new drinking routine.

If you want to know if you are drinking enough water, check the color of your urine. Unless you are taking vitamins or some type of medications, your urine should be almost clear. "Clear and copious" is a good description of a healthy person's urine. You know yourself better than anyone; watching and listening to the signals your body gives is important.

When the weather is hot it is easy to drink water. In the colder months drinking water takes more of an effort, but drinking adequate amounts of water stays just as important. The cooler the weather, the more likely we are to reach for hot drinks like coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Unfortunately those drinks act as diuretics and extra care should be used to avoid dehydration. For every cup of coffee that you drink, you need to drink three glasses of water to replace lost fluids. And for every 12-ounce beer you drink, you expend 20 ounces of fluid. Do the math and drink the extra water. Fruit juices, such as pure orange juice, are OK, but avoid juices that have added sugar or other ingredients.

To get your team in the best competitive condition, start a hydrating program now and see how the players' performance improves, especially as the weather heats up. If you are not an avid water drinker, then most of your players are probably not either. After all, kids copy what they see others doing. So my challenge to all of you coaches out there is to increase your water intake to a minimum of eight eight-ounce glasses a day. It is easier than you think. It is best to drink purified or good bottled water. Tap water may have chemical taste and excess chlorine.

Hydration and acclimation are important in any season, just like eating well-balanced meals. It is all part of staying fit and staying sharp to enjoy a healthy and safe time during the soccer season.

Editor's note: Based in southern California, Laurie Evans is a hydration consultant with Mountain Valley Ventures, which provides personal cooling products for companies whose employees work in high-heat environments. This article originally appeared in the July-August 2002 issue of Soccer Journal.