Hydration is a critical factor for athletes aiming to reach their peak performance. Proper fluid balance is essential not only to sustain physiological functions but also to maximise the benefits of training, be it intense sprints or long-haul endurance exercises. 
Pre-Exercise Hydration 
The hydration process begins well before the starting whistle. Consuming 500-600 mL of water 2-3 hours before exercise gives the body a sufficient hydration base. This preparatory step ensures enough time for fluid absorption and excretion of excess water, minimising the risk of hyponatremia. 
Monitoring Hydration 
During exercise, athletes should monitor their hydration status. A practical way to gauge fluid loss is to weigh oneself before and after the workout. Losing 1% of body weight could be an indication of dehydration. For every pound lost, an athlete should replace it with about 16-24 ounces of fluid post-exercise to ensure proper recovery. 
Fluid Replacement 
While exercising, sipping on water is advisable for workouts less than an hour. However, for longer sessions, especially in hot conditions, sports drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates can prevent drops in performance due to electrolyte imbalance and energy depletion. These specialised fluids aid in maintaining sodium levels, which can prevent both dehydration and hyponatremia. 
Post-Exercise Hydration 
Post-exercise, rehydrating is vital. Athletes should aim to replenish 150% of the water lost within 2 hours after exercise, as the body continues to lose fluids through urine and sweat. Including sodium in post-exercise meals or drinks can improve fluid retention and prompt complete rehydration. 
Final Thought 
For athletes, water is the fuel that keeps the performance engine running. By mastering the strategies of pre-loading fluids, monitoring hydration during exercise, and effectively replenishing after, they can ensure that their body is in prime condition to take on the rigours of their sport. 
Hydration strategies are highly individualised and should be adjusted according to the athlete's needs, exercise conditions, and sweat rate. Always encourage athletes to consult with a sports nutrition professional for personalised advice. 
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