Ultimate Guide to Sports Hydration – Part One

We all know how important staying hydrated is for sport and exercise performance but did you know that when a person is only dehydrated by the small amount of 2% of their body weight their performance starts to be affected?Dehydration can cause a reduction in blood volume, decreased sweat rate (which is responsible for cooling your body), decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature and increased rate of muscle glycogen use.  This can bring on the feeling of fatigue which no athlete wants prematurely.

Athlete hydration seems simple. Drink lots of water.  But it is very easy to get a bit blazé about actually putting it into practice.  If you have had a busy day at work or studying for exams the day before match day this could be enough for your drinking habits to dwindle and enough to drop you into 2% dehydration.  A tough training session 1-2 days before game day where you forget to replenish your fluids afterwards could also be enough to set your body down the path of dehydration.

Not to mention the importance of actually staying hydrated not just for game day but also for training so that you can actually get the most out of your body whilst training and have the best recovery.

Throughout summer it is easy to fall into bad habits on rest days spent lying around on the beach which could really affect your body without you knowing until you compete.

So what are the latest ways of ensuring adequate hydration with water that are easy to implement in your own training or team?


Educating your teammates/players is really important so that they don’t get sloppy on busy days from drinking regular water.  It is still accepted that assessing your own urine colour is an appropriate way to determine your own hydration level between training and games to help guide your water intake.  It is recommended that your urine look pale in colour and have little to no odour. Dehydration signs include dark coloured urine and a strong scent.

A normal person is recommend to consume 1.5L-2L per day but this does not take into account high intensity exercise or high temperatures.  On top of this daily amount it is recommended for athletes to drink regularly throughout the day but to add 500ml of water 2 hours prior to a game and then another 500ml 20 minutes prior to exercise to ensure you are well hydrated.

The next level up in prevention of dehydration is weight measurement before and after training sessions or games. My netball team has become accustomed to this method as we have completed this the past 2 seasons and is relatively easy to implement. All you need is a set of scales and somewhere to write all the weight measurements for each player so an easy comparison can be made.

There are guidelines and evidence that recommend that athletes need to replenish 1.5 x the amount that they lose so by measuring your weight before and after a game it is easy to calculate how much water you need to stay hydrated.  For example say you lost 1kg in sweat during a game you would need to drink 1.5litres of fluid post match.  Pretty simple equation to follow and easy to implement.

In Summary:

  • Education as to the importance of correct hydration is vital.
  • Risky times for forgetting adequate hydration can include busy long days at work, strenuous late training sessions, hot days in summer – resting or training.
  • Assessing your urine colour can be accurate in giving you a guide into your hydration level.
  • Dark coloured and bad odour = dehydrated
  • Pale and no odour = good hydration levels
  • For a more accurate hydration monitoring system for your team all you need is a set of scales. Compare the athletes weight before competition/training and afterwards.
  • Athlete needs to consume 1.5 x the amount of fluid they lost.


The next debate on this topic covers whether we need Sports drinks like Powerade and which is best for us – see Ultimate Guide to Hydration Part 2.









About the author

Julia Allan
Julia Allan

I'm a physiotherapist working majority in the sports field. I'm based in Melbourne working with a variety of different athletes which is currently predominantly with the Victorian Under 19 netball side and the Victorian Fury netball side through Eltham Physio Centre. I also play high level netball myself in the State League competition (VNL) here in Melbourne and I want to share my knowledge to help all athletes prevent injury and improve performance.

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