Hydrate well to play well. That’s the advice of sports nutritionist Tom Hill. Read on for practical tips to stay hydrated on court:
• How to assess your hydration needs
• What to drink
• When and how much to drink
We lose a lot of water when we play sport, and badminton is an extra thirsty game! To stay hydrated, you need to drink during exercise, but also before and after. We asked sports nutrition graduate and business owner of Hillsnutrition, Tom Hill how to know what to drink and when to drink it.
Sport hydration: maximize performance, minimize injuries
According to Tom, it’s a good idea to drink during a match. It boosts performance and lowers the risk of injury - a common problem for dehydrated players. "Hydration increases the removal of lactic acid from working muscles, helping sustain exercise performance. Dehydration can thicken the blood and decrease the oxygen delivery to the working muscles, which will decline performance.”
Remember to hydrate before a match or long training session. After 2% water loss, players risks muscular dysfunction reducing performance - strength, speed and power, decrease cognitive performance and even injury: "If you are dehydrated when you start exercise, training or competition, it reduces your physical abilities and can increase the likelihood of injury.”
So, how can you tell if you're dehydrated? Try Tom’s three-step guide:
● Watch out for the obvious warning signs. Is your mouth dry? Are you thirsty? Yes? Take a swig from your water bottle!
● Weigh yourself before and after you play to calculate how much water you lose during a game. The more weight loss during exercise will increase dehydration levels.
● Lastly, check the color of your urine. "The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are. The lighter and clearer it is, the more hydrated you are.”
What are the best drinks for a great game?
Water or sports drinks? There are so many drinks to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.
According to Tom, " still water is king" when choosing between still and sparkling, - at least on court: "Carbonated water can cause bloating and upset your stomach during exercise. Keep it away from matches and training”.
Sports drinks provide the body with carbohydrates - a major source of energy. But drink them sparingly, says Tom: “I would only recommend these drinks for high-intensity matches/training sessions or long training sessions. There isn’t a need for sports drinks at low-intensity workouts - water is fine".
Sports drinks are not the same as energy drinks, warns Tom: "Energy drinks often carbonated and quite high in sugar, calories and other processed additives because of all the added ingredients. They usually don't have enough caffeine for sporting performance, and fizzy drinks will cause bloating of the stomach before exercise”. So, avoid them if you can!
What is the best time to drink? And how much?
We asked Tom how much we should drink before, during, and after a match or training session:
1. Before exercise, drink about 250-900ml per hour - roughly the same amount as a small cup of coffee to almost two pints of water. This is a very individualized approach depending on sweat rates and hydration status.
2. On court:
● for a session lasting more than 60 minutes, drink every 5-15 minutes and in small quantities -
● for a session lasting less than 45 minutes, try not to drink too much - you can rehydrate after exercise.
3. After exercise, drink one and a half times the volume of water lost during exercise. How to calculate it? Multiply the difference between your pre and post exercise weight by 1.5.
E.g Pre weight = 70kg / Post weight 69kg = 1kg difference. 1kg x 1.5 = 1.5litres to rehydrate over 5 hours.
Not everyone has the same hydration needs, says Tom, who recommends the ‘test & learn’ technique to better understand your physiological needs: “Experiment during your workouts to find out how much sweat you lose and understand how much fluid is required to rehydrate.”
Make your own sports at home
Although Tom says water is adequate, for more intensive and longer sessions, you can make your own sports drinks:
• For on the court: For a sports drink, add 30g of sugar and two pinches of salt to 500ml of water. Sugar gives you carbohydrates to support energy, and the salt helps your hydration status.
• For after the court: Smoothies are a tasty alternative. Since each fruit has its own antioxidants, mix fruit of varying colors - blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, grapes, etc. Tom recommends different ingredients depending on how many calories you need: "For a low-calorie smoothie, blend berries. For a bigger calorie hit, add a mix of almonds, bananas, or oats.”
It is really important to hydrate properly during a match or training session. Think about planning your hydration before, during, and after sport to play at your best and get ready for action. Armed with this advice (and some homemade drinks in your bag), you can take on any challenge!