Staying Hydrated

Thirsty for Success?

Every athlete who strives for excellent performance must be well hydrated before, during and after training and competition!

Preventing Dehydration

An excerpt from Chapter 8: Fluids, Water and Sports Drinks (reprinted with permission) 
Food Guide for Soccer by Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch

Dehydration is one of the major causes of fatigue while playing soccer. Hence preventing dehydration is a vital part of your sports diet. While recreational soccer players are unlikely to become dehydrated if they are practicing for an hour or less of low-key soccer in cool weather, serious soccer players with sweat-soaked uniforms want to be sure to drink adequate fluids, not only in hot weather, but also in cool weather when they may not think to drink. They might be losing two to three quarts (liters) per match, if not more. And on typical tournament weekends, that really adds up.

Younger soccer players are also at risk for becoming dehydrated. Children have less capacity for sweating, and their body temperature can rise quickly if they become dehydrated. If you are the coach or parent of a young soccer player, be sure to provide frequent fluid breaks, preferably in the shade. If the soccer field does not offer shade, consider requesting that the team invest in a portable open-sided tent with a roof to set up along the sidelines during the game for at least a little shade. While you don’t have to replace every drop of sweat, your goal should be to limit sweat loss to 2% of your body weight (Montain). That is:


Your heart rate increases by 3 to 5 beats per minute for every one percent of body weight loss. Hence, with increasing sweat losses, exercise feels harder; you’ll enjoy it less, and you’ll move slower. In extreme cases, becoming dehydrated can contribute to medical problems. When you are training hard day after day in the heat—perhaps doing double sessions pre-season or playing multi-game tournaments—you can easily become chronically dehydrated. You’ll feel unusually fatigued and lethargic. Don’t let that happen! You can tell if you are well-hydrated by monitoring your urine: 

  • You should urinate frequently (every 2 to 4 hours) throughout the day. (Check with your players on game or tournament days.) 
  • The urine should be clear and of significant quantity. 
  • Your morning urine should not be dark and concentrated. (See the Urine Color Chart.) 
“The biggest nutrition improvement I’ve made since coming to Women’s Professional Soccer is drinking more water. Drinking enough has made a significant impact on my energy level and performance on the field.” - Lisa De Vanna, Forward, Washington Freedom 

Thirst is a clear signal your body needs fluids. You want to drink before you feel thirsty. Or, you can follow the advice of the American College of Sports Medicine and learn your sweat rate so you can drink the right amount to match your sweat losses.

urine color chart

To determine how much you should drink during exercise, weigh yourself (without clothes) before and after a soccer game. Keep track of how much you drink; 16 ounces of water (or sports drink) weighs one pound. If you drank nothing and lost two pounds (32 ounces or 1 quart or about 1 liter) in 60 minutes, you should plan to drink accordingly during the next exercise session— at least 8 ounces (225 ml) for every fifteen minutes of physical activity. If you struggle with muscle cramps (often associated with dehydration), you might want to monitor your weight, to see if you are keeping up with your fluid needs. If you weigh 120 pounds (55 kg), try not to lose more than 21/2 pounds (1 kg) of sweat during a workout. Practice drinking fluids during training as a means to teach your stomach to comfortably accommodate the liquid. Your body can turn water into sweat in about 10 minutes, so keep drinking, even towards the end of practice sessions or, if possible, games.

Unfortunately, I think there’s not enough education about hydration. When I was young, we knew nothing about it. We all know that there’s cases of athletes having serious issues because of dehydration and even dying.
— Landon Donovan