As the summer beach volleyball season ramps up, and so does the heat, hydration isn’t always the first thing on our minds. Hydration is a vital part of staying in competitive shape as an athlete. I’ve seen too many players get injured because they lost focus as a result of dehydration. Maintaining appropriate levels of hydration, although we know it is important, isn’t always a priority. Just like executing a play in volleyball, you have to start with a plan in order to stay properly hydrated. Here’s a look at what your hydration routine should look like before, during, and after you play.
- The 2-3 by 2-3
This is a pretty easy one to remember –you want to drink 2-3 cups (16-24 oz) of water 2-3 hours before a long or hot practice. This does not mean that you should drink it all at once. Aim to drink the 2-3 cups over the 2-3 hour time frame. Hydrating over time can help you avoid cramping during play.
- The 1 Cup Pre-game Prep
You already understand the importance of an adequate warm up before practice or a game, so consider hydration as part of your pre-game prep. Drink one cup (8 oz) 15 minutes before you play or practice. It is difficult to stay hydrated even if you are sipping regularly during a match. By optimizing pre-game hydration, you are setting yourself up for safe and successful play.
It is recommended that athletes should drink 4-6 oz every 15 minutes, if playing for over an hour. By drinking a little every 15 minutes, your body can absorb the most water without overloading your system. As an athlete and a coach, I realize that this is often a challenge. In order to help track and maintain proper hydration during play, I created the gulp test. The gulp test is a tool you can use to easily measure how much water you drink. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on how to implement the gulp test.
The best way to know your hydration status is to weigh yourself. For proper re-hydration, the rule of thumb is to drink two cups of water for every one pound of sweat lost. This requires you to weigh yourself before and after a game or practice, with the least amount of clothes, since clothes will absorb the sweat and give you an inaccurate read on your hydration. Try to do this a few times per week, particularly during hot days, to learn how much water you are losing through sweat and to help you determine how aggressive you need to be in rehydrating.
Properly hydrating before the game or match, should make rehydrating easier. Again, the key here is rehydrating over time. If you lose three pounds after practice on a hot day, take your time drinking those six cups of water over the course of the evening. You may be nervous that this extra hydration will make you have to stay close to a bathroom, but at first this extra hydration will have little-to-no effect. As you become better hydrated, you will start to notice that you do need to use the bathroom more. When this occurs, you can slow down your drinking.
Don’t wait for game day to incorporate these strategies for better hydration. Start now. You can prevent bloating or other discomfort by introducing better hydration habits today.. Stay tuned for Part Two where we will look at what you should be hydrating with.
About the Author
Bethany Frazier, MS, RD, LDN, is a private practice registered dietitian. She specializes in athlete fueling strategies and mindful eating practices. Bethany was a collegiate volleyball and cross country athlete, and high school volleyball coach. For more information about Bethany, her services, or nutrition advice please visit kcdiet.com.