Herbalife is the sports nutrition and presenting partner for the LA Galaxy. Herbalife Dietitians work closely with the LA Galaxy technical staff to make sure we are maximizing their nutrition to support performance goals.
Hydration is a hot topic, especially during the hotter months of summer. Read this article to learn about the basics of hydration, why it is so important for athletic performance, how to easily determine if you are well-hydrated, and how we optimize hydration at the LA Galaxy.
When most people think of hydration, they simply think of water.
Water plays many roles within the body including:
● Lubrication and protection of joints and organs
● Promotion of adequate circulation
● Nutrient and oxygen delivery via blood
● Waste removal
● Digestive regulation
Despite the evident importance of water to the human body, true hydration is really a balance of fluids and electrolytes. In other words, you need both water and electrolytes to be optimally hydrated. Further, athletes can especially benefit from electrolyte-carbohydrate sports drinks to maintain blood sugar levels (and energy).
Electrolytes are minerals with electrical charge that aid in muscle contraction, nervous function, and cardiovascular function. These electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. Sodium is especially important for hydration, as it helps retain water within the body.
Hydration and Performance1-4
Dehydration or a suboptimal hydration status can negatively impact athletic performance. Losing no more than 2% of body weight from body losses (sweat = fluids + electrolytes) during exercise can help prevent the deleterious effects of underhydration and aid in recovery. Losses over 5% are severe and are associated with impaired performance and pose health risks.
Some of the major signs and symptoms of dehydration or suboptimal hydration can include:
● Impaired cognitive function (reduced concentration and reaction time)
● Heat intolerance during exercise (heat stroke)
● Decreased endurance
● Increased ratings of perceived exertion
● Mood disturbance
● Poor appetite after training
● Dark urine (anything darker than a pale yellow)
● Low volume of urine
● Low blood pressure
● Seizures from lack of electrolytes
For athletes, some risk factors for dehydration (aside from not drinking enough fluids and electrolytes) can include excessive sweating during heavy workouts, training at a high altitude, or training in a hot and humid environment. When you sweat, you are losing both fluids and electrolytes (especially sodium and chloride - why sweat is salty!).
Around 50% of athletes (pro sports, collegiate sports, and youth sports) are underhydrated at the beginning of training. The performance detriments and health risks outlined above describe why fueling and replenishment of both fluids and electrolytes is of the utmost importance to athletes.
Self-Assessment of Hydration1,2,5
Every person has different daily hydration needs depending on a plethora of factors including body size and composition, activity levels and training volume, the weather, altitude, medications, level of salt losses within sweat, and more. Drinking water throughout the day along with sports drinks close to the time of training can help fuel your body for success on and off the field.
The easiest way to self-assess for adequate hydration is to pay attention to the color of your urine. Darker yellow or brown urine signals that you should focus on replenishing hydration levels within the body, while pale yellow urine signifies adequate hydration. Clear urine should not be the goal, as this can signify overhydration or fluid overload, which can result in dangerous electrolyte imbalances.
Another method of hydration self-assessment is to compare your weights both pre- and post-training to determine how much fluids you should replenish.
● 2-3 hours before training: sip on at least 1 water bottle
● 15-60 minutes before training: drink around half of a water bottle/sports drink and take your pre-training weight
● During training: drink at least 1 water bottle/sports drink for each hour of training
● After training: deduct your post-training weight from your pre-training weight, and drink 1 water bottle or sports drink for every pound of body weight lost
● Sip, don’t chug, your water!
Optimizing Hydration at LA Galaxy1,2,5
At LA Galaxy, we offer a customizable electrolyte-carbohydrate sports drink from Herbalife24® called CR7 Drive. This electrolyte beverage is often consumed prior to, during, and/or after training depending on individual needs and preferences. We provide a team favorite slushie containing Herbalife24® CR7 Drive. The ice reduces core body temperature, and the CR7 Drive contains electrolytes to help refuel after training.
We also promote the consumption of hydrating foods with high water and electrolyte content (watery fruits and vegetables, salt) at our daily Training Table, as well as encourage the athletes to pay attention to their thirst cues and any other signs of underhydration.
A couple of days prior to match day, we also assess the hydration status of the athletes via urine specific gravity (USG) testing and body composition testing using bioelectrical impedance analysis. The combination of these two tests performed on a regular basis allows sports dietitians to assess body water content and then provide personalized recommendations to help optimize hydration prior to matchday.
1. Liska D, Mah E, Brisbois T, Barrios PL, Baker LB, Spriet LL. Narrative review of hydration and selected health outcomes in the general population. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):70. Published 2019 Jan 1. doi:10.3390/nu11010070
2. McDermott BP, Anderson SA, Armstrong LE, et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: Fluid replacement for the physically active. J Athl Train. 2017;52(9):877-895. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-52.9.02
3. Pellicer-Caller R, Vaquero-Cristóbal R, González-Gálvez N, Abenza-Cano L, Horcajo J, de la Vega-Marcos R. Influence of exogenous factors related to nutritional and hydration strategies and environmental conditions on fatigue in endurance sports: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Nutrients. 2023;15(12):2700. Published 2023 Jun 9. doi:10.3390/nu15122700
4. Dube A, Gouws C, Breukelman G. Effects of hypohydration and fluid balance in athletes' cognitive performance: a systematic review. Afr Health Sci. 2022;22(1):367-376. doi:10.4314/ahs.v22i1.45
5. Cheuvront SN, Sawka MN. Hydration assessment of athletes. Gatorade Sports Science Institute. 2006. https://www.gssiweb.org/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-97-hydration-assessment-of-athletes