Prep for the Season: Why is hydration important for football players to beat the heat?

By Brent Glasgow | Posted 5/30/2018

Photo via Gatorade

The importance of hydration can't be overstated, whether it's a youth football player or an NFL great like Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. 

As noted by Denver Broncos assistant athletic trainer Mike Sundeen, athletes lose electrolytes and water through sweat. Electrolytes let the body perform at an optimal rate, while water promotes muscle function. Dehydrated athletes experience fatigue and sometimes fall victim to heat-related illness.

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As found in the USA Football Parent Guide, dehydration symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Feeling faint
  • Fever
  • Intense thirst
  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal
  • Skin numbness or tingling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Not urinating for many hours
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

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As for how to properly hydrate in-season, Sundeen recommends athletes drink 15 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours prior to practice or games, and 7 to 10 ounces of water every 20 to 30 minutes during activity. 

Sundeen also suggests coaches weigh athletes before and after practice. The difference in the two weights serves as a guide toward proper hydration after activity. Athletes should drink 12 ounces of water or carbohydrate beverage for every pound of weight lost.  

To help prevent heat-based issues, coaches can either schedule outdoor workouts early in the day before peak sunlight, or closer to sunset. 

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USA Football partner Gatorade provides multiple options to battle dehydration, both before and after athletic activity. Gatorade replenishes electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride lost in sweat. It stimulates thirst so athletes drink more, and retains fluid so they remain hydrated. Unlike water, Gatorade refuels with carbohydrates to give working muscles more energy to help athletes push their hardest.

Gatorade offers various forms of performance-boosting nutrition, including sports drinks, protein powders, bars and chews, and endurance packs:

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