Moderation + Hydration = Successful Athletic Performance
It is well known throughout the First Coast that Mandarin High School has a history of successful athletic programs. This success is the result of a combination of many factors. A few are a supportive Principal, energetic Athletic Director, experienced coaches, excellent facilities and healthy athletes. Over the past twenty-five years as a Certified Athletic Trainer, seven of those at Mandarin, I have had the responsibility and opportunity to provide sports medicine coverage at a variety of professional, collegiate, varsity and junior varsity events. With the peak of spring athletics and football around the corner, one of the challenges that always seems to present itself is the untimely injury. Rarely does a team or individual compete at a high level without suffering some physical set back due to injury.
Why do some appear more immune to the injury bug and others seem to always be running from it? In my years of athletic training I have been fortunate to gain some insight through on the field exposure and continuing education courses. As a result, I feel many injuries are preventable by practicing two things every day, moderation and hydration.
The definition of moderation is the avoidance of extremes or to keep things in balance. Hydration is the retention and supply of water in bodily tissues. Athletes that have fewer injuries do a better job of staying well hydrated and keeping their life and habits in balance. Moderation and hydration are also of great importance for a quick recovery from an injury in order to return safely to competition.
Many of the things that need to be kept in balance are under the control of the individual athlete and he or she must own up to that responsibility. Family, work, school, friends, religion, rest, diet, hobbies and sports all must fit proportionately and complementary in a 24-hour day. When any one of these gets out of balance for a prolonged period of time, the others will suffer. It is rest and diet that I would like to address. Most injured athletes that I have treated seem to lack moderation when it comes to these two areas.
The long recommended sleep amount is six to eight hours each night. This is important because this is the time the body recovers and repairs itself from the damage incurred during the previous day. This is not an average amount but a consistent one. Lost hours of sleep cannot be recovered by sleeping longer at a later time. The results of sleep deprivation are cumulative and will eventually take their toll resulting in an increased potential for injury. This can also cause the athlete to compensate getting the area of diet out of balance.
Energy drinks, soft drinks, coffees, teas, processed foods, candies and supplements are used and abused to try and fill the void created by lack of sleep. This dietary practice only adds to imbalance and dehydration. Caffeine and herbal stimulants increase the body’s fluid loss and rob it of nutrients. Processed sugars in beverages and foods have been shown to lower the body’s immunity against illness and slow healing rates, in addition to compromising absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Some processed sugars like High-fructose corn syrup may actually delay the fullness response of the brain leading to overeating and weight gain. Is it harmful to consume food and beverages that contain these things versus those with less additives and processed sugars? Not when moderation is practiced. Whether it’s processed sugar or natural sugar, it is still sugar and too much can cause a problem. The same can be said for caffeine and herbal supplements.
Finally, hydration of the body needs to be maintained in order to perform at a high level at anything you do. Our muscles are over 50% water and even a sight drop in hydration can result in the decreased ability to perform a task. Electrolyte drinks are commercially produced and promoted, but water is the most efficient and cost effective way to stay properly hydrated. Gatorade of today is a distant cousin to the original formula of the 60’ and 70’s. These beverages, when consumed in moderation, can help performance but are not a substitute for plain bottled water. Sixty-four ounces of water a day is fine for the average student, but the student athlete should consume an additional six to eight ounces every fifteen minutes during practice or event. A dehydrated athlete has a higher rate of injury than a well hydrated one.