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A.D.’s Corner: July 23, 2009

Proper Hydration Is Essential for Athlete

Research on athletes’ perceptions of sweat loss and fluid consumption shows how important it is for athletes to drink on a regular schedule to prevent dehydration.

A study; conducted by scientists at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) looked at how accurately athletes could estimate their sweat losses and fluid intake during a 10-mile race; 18 veteran runners participated in the study. The results showed that the runners significantly underestimated how much sweat they lost and consequently drank too little to stay well hydrated. The runners underestimated their sweat losses by an average of 46 percent and their fluid intake by an average of 15 percent, resulting in the runners replacing only 30 percent of their fluids lost through sweat.

This data shows that even the most experienced runners are unable to accurately estimate their sweat losses and cannot subjectively judge how much fluid to drink to prevent dehydration. If seasoned athletes such as these do such a poor job of judging their fluid needs, the potential for dehydration may be more severe for the average athlete, especially during the hot summer months.

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of drinking on a schedule every 15 minutes before, during and after activity. Relying on thirst is not enough to keep dehydration at bay.

According to W. Larry Kenney, Ph.D., vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine, the research confirms what Kenney and other scientists have observed in laboratory experiments for years. “I’ve seen this ‘voluntary dehydration’ time and time again. From unfit periodic exercisers to elite athletes, it is difficult for people to judge the degree to which they become dehydrated. They don’t replace the fluids they lose and often pay the price by compromising their athletic performance and even their health.

Interestingly, research has shown that people will drink more of a lightly flavored sports beverage that contains sodium than they will water. Therefore, the value of a sports drink is not necessarily nutritional, but rather a way to guarantee greater water consumption.

The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), headquartered in Barrington, IL, is a research and educational facility dedicated to enhancing the performance and well-being of athletes. For more information about sports nutrition and exercise science pertaining to The Gatorade Company, visit the Gatorade Sports Science Institute website at or

Dr. Silverman is the districtwide athletic coordinator for Glen Cove schools. He has a degree in sport and exercise psychology from Boston University. He has worked with high school to professional athletes on performance enhancement and has appeared on a number of sports programs discussing the topic of youth sports. He has a passion for making athletics the best possible experience it can be for all young athletes, as well as ensuring all youth have an opportunity to use sport as a learning tool about life and health. Dr. Silverman is a fitness buff who still is an avid ice hockey player.