Hydration Tips for Swimmers
Spending time by the pool is a favorite summer pastime, especially for the little ones. However, a hot day by a pool in Houston can be dangerous without the proper hydration even through the fall season. While swimming is an activity surrounded by water, it’s a very strenuous activity that requires a large amount of energy. Playing or swimming in a pool can cause our bodies to sweat in the pool, even if we don’t see it. This is often the main reason why we oftentimes neglect to drink water when swimming; a common misconception that can make the pool a dangerous dehydration zone under the sun’s hot rays.
The good news is dehydration can be avoided and reversed with the proper care. Whether you are a family of recreational swimmers or competitive swimmers, here are the best practices for staying hydrated in the pool.
Playing in the Pool
The best way to avoid cramping, dizziness, headaches, and sluggishness associated with dehydration is to properly hydrate before jumping into the pool. Starting the day only mildly hydrated can cause hydration much quicker than being moderately hydrated.
Newborns and infants cannot regulate body temperature so they can get very easily overheated. However, it’s not a good idea to give water to babies under six months old. They receive all the hydration they need from breast milk, even in hot weather. Drinking water actually places them at a risk for water intoxication (over-dilution of the blood stream).
For infants older than six months, you can supplement with a little water (about 4-6 ounces) per day until they are eating solid foods, at which point you can increase the amount. Your doctor will know best about a specific amount based on your baby’s height and weight.
For playing in the pool, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school-aged children drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 20 minutes. For adolescents, the AAP recommends 32-48 fluid ounces.
Many children are naturally drawn to sugary drinks rather than just plain water. To encourage them to stay hydrated and avoid unhealthy, sugary options, try naturally sweetening it with lemon, citrus fruit, or a piece of frozen fruit! Water-packed fruit such as watermelon, peaches, and grapes not only provide water, but other healthy nutrients.
Hydrating for Competition
Fluid requirements for competitive swimmers depend on a number of factors including workout intensity, workout duration, age, and environmental factors (like water temperature and weather). However, there are a few rules of thumb that can prevent dehydration for your competitive swimmer.
For one-hour sessions, USA Swimming recommends staying hydrated with just plain water. However, when swimming for more than one hour, swimmers need to replace the primary sodium nutrients, sodium and chloride, as well as carbohydrates to replenish muscles and improve nutrients. Sodium and potassium are lost through sweat; they must be replaced to prevent cramping and regulate water throughout the body.
Carbohydrates help provide the body with a source of fuel and energy and adding a small amount of carbohydrates while hydrating can boost performance. Carbohydrates are also crucial during competitive swimming because once the body uses up its carb supply, it will begin burning valuable muscle protein, which every athlete wants to avoid. Don’t forget to rehydrate after practice, which replenishes the body and speeds up recovery.