Nutrition: Hydration for Sport - Timing and Quantity

Dick Moss, Editor

Your athletes' workout is coming up and they want to know how much water they should drink to avoid becoming dehydrated. Here are some general guidelines you can give to them.

Two Hours Before the Workout
    Athletes should drink one to two cups of water about two hours before practice. This gives the water plenty of time to enter the bloodstream and allows time for any excess water to be excreted. Before competitions, this water can often be taken during the pre-competition meal.

Immediately Before Practice
Just before practice, have your athletes drink one-half to one cup of water, depending on how much they can tolerate: although some athletes don't like the feeling of water sloshing around in their stomach, they quickly learn to tolerate this feeling. You might also explain that water will be absorbed faster if their stomach is full.
In very hot or cold conditions, drink 11/2 to 21/2 cups of water immediately before practice.

During Exercise
Athletes should attempt to drink one-half to one cup of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise—whether they feel thirsty or not. If the practice/event lasts longer than one hour, they can add some carbohydrate to their fluids to maintain energy levels—sports drinks do a good job of this. There's little advantage to adding carbos in exercise sessions of less than one hour.

After Exercise
Encourage your athletes to drink a lot to replace the water they've lost — a good estimate is two cups for every pound of body weight lost during the workout.

Click here to download a “Hydration Guidelines” handout you can reproduce for your athletes.


1. Nancy Clark, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook-5th Edition, Human Kinetics, 2013.
2. Susan M. Kleiner (PhD, RD) with Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, Power Eating, Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998.

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