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Proper hydration for optimal performance

A lot of young athletes believe that training hard, doing drills and learning proper technique is enough to bring out a good performance in competition situations. Whether it's football, hockey or any other physically demanding sport, what some young people don't understand is that all of that time and effort will not matter if your body doesn't get enough hydration. Professionals know that their bodies are performing at their best when enough water, electrolytes and protein is in their system. Here are some hydration tips for every athlete, from the rookies to the veterans.

Drink a combination of fluids
Proper hydration begins with water, but it doesn't end there. According to Dr. Ron Maughan, a performance consultant for the Manchester United soccer team, athletes should also consume a drink that has a little bit of sodium, potassium, chloride and other electrolytes. These elements are absorbed faster than water by itself. Be careful though. Too much salt can slow down the digestion and water absorption process, which is not good for a player who is already dehydrated. Dr. Maughan also suggests that athletes drink 1.5 pints of fluid for every pound of weight lost during intense physical activity.

Consume protein
Whenever you exercise hard or compete for an extended period of time, your body's muscles break down on a cellular level. Your body repairs itself by using outside sources of protein, a process that begins as soon as the physical activity has ended. Adding protein to a sports drink can kick-start the rebuilding process and give your body the energy it needs to keep on moving during extended exercise.

Multivitamins and supplements
Taking the recommended daily dosage of vitamins, minerals and supplements also helps your body rebuild muscle tissue. Part of the breakdown of cells during exercise occurs because of oxygen radicals in your blood. These particles are a byproduct of metabolism and happen naturally. But over time, the buildup can cause premature muscle fatigue. Taking a daily multivitamin and other supplements will help maintain your body's free radical levels and keep you performing at your best.

Endurance sports like soccer can really tax your body. Because prolonged physical activity causes your body to use up its carbohydrate stores, you should also consider taking in some carbs before, during and after your competition. By consuming a moderate amount of carbs during a game, you can potentially delay muscle fatigue, which in turn can prevent late game injuries.

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