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Soccer: Hydration for Performance

 

Success depends on previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure….

Confucious 

As a former competitive athlete, physician and coach of U 14 Girls competitive soccer I’m constantly searching for health, fitness and nutritional ideas reduce injuries, enhance performance, and aid recovery. Unfortunately, female soccer players are frankly understudied.  What little research does exist lacks practical advice.

Proper hydration for soccer training and match day is extremely important.  

Research has shown that lack of proper hydration leads to a decrease in stamina, strength and even skill performance on game-day.  

Research has also revealed that elite players often begin match-play and training under-hydrated and re-hydrate at only about 50% of losses immediately after training.

The remainder of this post will explore the role of hydration in the training and match environment as well as provide practical tips and protocols for hydration.

 Hydration Performance Facts

  • Players often begin matches/training under-hydrated
  • Players often re-hydrate slower and less completely during and after match play
  • 1-2 % loss of weight (water loss) during matches / training causes significant impairments to athletic performance
  • Sweat rates vary between individuals making hydration individualized, often based on sweat rates

Performance Breakdowns

Soccer games are often played in the heat of the day, many times matches fall into a tournament format. Tournaments schedules can stress stamina, endurance, and hydration measures due to several games being played in a 1-2 day span.  Often quick recoveries are necessary between games.  

Understanding the evidence from research on players from US & foreign national teams, we know that even elite athletes frequently begin a single game under-hydrated.  At the youth level, my experience would suggest these athletes are even less prepared on match-day.  

In addition, at youth competitive levels, individual hydration varies tremendously within and after the game.  I’ve seen tremendous variation in player performance during tournaments after playing 1-2 games. Players frequently exhibit less focus, decreased stamina, motivation and sluggish technical skill late in tournaments. (Ironically where the greatest performance is required!)  Hydration status certainly explains some of these observations.  Clearly performance is directly linked, first to hydration, and secondly to proper re-fueling (Covered in a upcoming related post).

Clearly for optimal performance we must implement individual and team strategies for pre-game, intra-game, and post-game hydration.  

Suggested Hydration Regimen

24-48 hrs prior to game / match

Drink at 1-2 liters additional water (Beyond normal daily consumption):  This can be consumed gradually all day.  This will insure adequate cellular “Pre-hydration”  and prevent players from starting match-day hypo-hydrated.

4 hours prior to game / match

Drink 8-16 ounces of electrolyte beverage (Gatorade).  I prefer G2 to lower sugar content but regular Gatorade is fine too.  I do not recommend other sports drinks if they have artificial sweeteners like aspartame.  For those interested in avoiding HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) ubiquitous to sports drinks including Gatorade, consider pulp free Coconut Water.  Coconut water is dense in electrolytes and will serve a similar purpose as Gatorade.  (Same volumes recommended).

Match Hydration

During half- time or breaks, attempt to consume 8-16 ounces Gatorade or water. Caution players to not guzzle to help prevent bloating, but encourage players to sip steadily through breaks to replenish during the brief half-time.  The goal is to push a bit of hydration and depleted electrolytes back into the player without causing stomach upset.  I find players do best by capping their hydration with a swallow or two of water prior to game restart.

Post-Game Hydration

Immediately post game drink 8 ounces Gatoraid and 16-32 ounces of water.  Go with the higher values if sweating profusely after the game.  The post-match hydration is hugely important during tournament play.  Players often have a mere 2-4 hours between games.  If the player doesn’t begin re-hydration immediately they have no hope of consuming enough to replenish even 50% of that lost during play, hence the spiral of performance begins.  

Nutrition including protein consumption immediately after matches is also very important and will be covered in detail in Soccer: Nutrition for Performance (upcoming post).

Summary

Lack of planning and attention to hydration pre/post game plays a huge role in performance and recovery.  There are lots of opinions on this topic but I believe this topic is grossly overlooked, especially in the youth ranks.  As always, I encourage feedback.  I’ve attached a few links for further reading.

Pre-game hydration status, sweat loss, and fluid intake in elite Brazilian young male soccer players during competition.

Fluid balance of elite Brazilian youth soccer players during consecutive days of training.

Water and electrolyte needs for football training and match-play

Nutrition and hydration concerns of the female football player

 

 

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Erica Melendez November 11, 2018, 7:49 pm

    Hi there! I was wondering what your take on Advicare’s Rehydrate is compared to Gatorade when talking about proper hydration. Thank you for your insight!

    • William Curtis November 12, 2018, 9:07 pm

      Other than fructose, the Advocare product seems more dynamic and potentially beneficial than Gatorade. (Amino acids, electrolytes, etc)

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