This guide is meant to assist water polo players and parents in starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, while maximizing performance. In this guide we will cover energy sources, nutrition, hydration, and recipes.
It's important that athletes are properly hydrated to achieve optimal performance and reduce recovery time. Water polo players often fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration because they are in the pool. Stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle on the side of the pool and taking frequent sips. It's also important to drink plenty of fluids before and after a practice or game.
Some dehydration signs and symptoms to look for:
- Lack of concentration
- Early fatigue
- Trouble tolerating heat
- Delayed recovery
- Muscle cramps
- Color of urine.
How much water should an athlete drink?
Morning: Start your day by drinking an 8 oz. glass of water.
2 Hours Before Practice or Game: Drink at least 16 oz. of water. Drinking water two to three hours before exercise allows enough time for fluid to pass before exercise begins.
30 Minutes Before Practice or Game: Drink 5 - 10 oz. of water. There is no benefit to chugging fluid in an attempt to stay hydrated. Although everyone is different, the body can only absorb fluid so fast, and you do not want to have extra fluid sloshing around in your stomach when it's time to get in the pool.
Every 15 - 20 Minutes During Practice or Game: Try to drink 4 - 8 oz. of water. The goal is to consistently replace fluid lost during the activity. Remember: One gulp is about one ounce, so aim for four to eight gulps of fluid every 15 - 20 minutes.
After Activity: Drink 20 - 24 oz. of fluid for every pound of body weight lost.
Beware of sports drinks: you should only drink sports drinks during or immediately after a practice or game. Lots of brands add unhealthy amounts of sweetener, both natural and artificial to their sports drinks. If your body does not use the excess sugar and carbs your blood sugar will spike… and then crash.
Can you ever drink too much water?
It is possible to consume more fluid than is lost during exercise. This can cause gastric discomfort. However, most importantly, drinking too much increases the risk for hyponatremia (dilution of plasma sodium levels), also called water-intoxication. The signs and symptoms of hyponatremia are strikingly similar to dehydration. Thus, monitoring body weight before and after exercise is the best way to avoid overhydration. Athletes should not gain weight from drinking too much.
There are only two ways to restore the glycogen levels in the body, burn less calories by resting; and/or by eating a carbohydrate rich diet. Frequent long and difficult training sessions or games can reduce the amount of glycogen available, likely causing poor performance. Studies have shown that the glycogen stored in the body will start depleting after only one hour of continuous exercise. It can be depleted completely if not restored through diet & rest.
This graph shows the depletion of glycogen after 4 days of intense practice.
Game & Tournament Snack Essentials
Bananas are nature's energy bar! Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium. They'll give you energy and help prevent cramping.
Energy Bars are a great way of meeting some of your carbohydrate needs, and are easy to carry with you in your backpack. Make sure that you get high carbohydrate/low fat bars. Read the label and apply the 4 and 20 rule. Any bar that provides more than 20 grams of carbohydrate and less than 4 grams of fat is usually a good choice.
Hummus With Veggies & Whole Wheat Pita is a power carbohydrate + protein combo.
Dried & Fresh Fruit: We like apples, dried mango, and oranges. Bring your favorite!
Peanut Butter on Brown Rice Cakes another power carbohydrate + protein combo.
Trail Mix (with out M&Ms): The Omega Mix from Trader Joe's is always a good choice!
Smoothies are a great source of carbohydrates. They go down quickly and they digest easily.