When was the last time you saw a group of 20-year-old GAA lads walking down the street? My guess is they were all dressed in a pair of skinny tracksuit bottoms, a quarter zip and had a 2 Litre bottle of water in their hands.
As well as that, you can usually spot the GAA players in the office as the ones who have the big bottles of water on their desks.
So it's clear that hydration is a big focus in the GAA, but are we doing it right?
Why Hydration is Important
Thirst begins to occur when you've lost 1-2% of your bodyweight in water, and at 2%, performance starts to deteriorate. One reason is related to the fact that as we exercise intensely, hydrogen ions build up in the blood, creating an acidic environment in the blood in the muscles being used. This is responsible for the burning feeling we get that is often described as lactic acid.
Since the blood is primarily made up of water, the less water it contains, the quicker the concentration of hydrogen ions increases, the quicker we get that burning sensation, and the quicker exercise performance diminishes. Keeping hydrated can help postpone this.
People often confuse thirst with hunger, and for that reason, keeping hydrated can help avoid extra snacking. Drinking water regularly throughout the day can also help postpone hunger.
Keeping hydrated can help with muscle gain, mainly through the improved performance mentioned earlier. Long-term, keeping hydrated can also help avoid injury, by keeping the joints lubricated and supple.
An array of health benefits goes along with keeping hydrated, including improved digestion of food, transport of nutrients, cognition and potentially even mood.
Is it Just Water That Counts?
Contrary to popular belief, most liquids (except alcohol) contribute to your fluid intake, including tea and coffee! Yes, coffee can cause you to excrete extra fluid, but studies have shown that the extra fluid excreted is less than the extra fluid taken in, leading to a net-hydrating effect.
It is worth noting that a lot of drinks, such as energy drinks and coffee (if milky or with added sugar) contain calories, and if you are adding in extra amounts of these to increase fluid intake, those extra calories need accounted for.
Also, foods with high water content (usually fruits and vegetables) will contribute to hydration lvels.
How Much to Drink?
The amount of water required is very much based on individual's physical attributes, activity levels and sweat rate, but a decent place to start is about 1L of fluid per 25kg of bodyweight. From there, you can monitor your urine colour and frequency, aiming for about 5 clear urinations per day (the first one won't be clear). If this is not the case, then it could be worth increasing your fluid intake.
During exercise, it can be a good idea to consume about 1L per hour of exercise, and continue to sip away on water in the hours that follow, to replace the fluids you've lost.
Conor O'Neill, Know Yourself Nutrition
If you want to get your nutrition and gym-work on point for GAA, check out the Gaelic Athlete Program here: knowyourselfnutrition.com/programs or our online coaching program here: knowyourselfnutrition.com/gaaleanathlete.