The human body is made up roughly of 60% water,1 so it follows that it must be the top priority on the path to becoming a more explosive, stronger, and healthier player.
Dehydration in athletes is such a common phenomenon but it is not being addressed proactively. The Russell Westbrooks, LeBron James, and Steph Currys of the world are definitely mindful of their daily water intake, hence their consistent explosiveness and elite level of performance each night.
A human body that is not receiving adequate water intake, especially a basketball player who requires higher-than-normal levels of water intake, will begin to express symptoms. This may be likened to a plant that begins to wither away as it experiences water restriction.
It is important to be mindful of the early warning signs of dehydration and to combine that knowledge with a subsequent increase in water intake.
Early signs of dehydration (mild to moderate dehydration) include dry or sticky mouth, not urinating much, muscle cramps, thirst, and headache.2 These are all signs that every basketball player in the world has experienced at one point or another throughout his/her career. They were most likely dismissed as being “normal” for athletes. Unfortunately, while I agree that they are normal, I would also say that with proper hydration education the number of athletes experiencing these signs can be tremendously reduced if not eliminated entirely.
A 2015 study on 96 male basketball players of eight national teams in the FIBA Europe U20 Championship concluded that most athletes actually begancompetition in a dehydrated state.3 A 2009 study on 29 NBA players during Summer League revealed a similar conclusion in that approximately half of the players began the games in a “hypohydrated” state.4 Both studies found that fluid intake during the games was not sufficient enough to compensate for the pre-competition dehydrated state and therefore players remained in a dehydrated state (and often got even worse) post-competition.
This has strong implications for why the triad of coaches, players, and parents must approach pre-game, during-game, and post-game hydration strategies with care. The goal is to ensure a properly hydrated athlete before, during, and after competition.
The Importance of Water
There is a reason why we as humans can survive approximately 2-3 weeks without food but only 3-4 days without water – it’s the granddaddy of steps towards highly functioning health!
Water is so versatile in its ability to heal and maintain the body.5 Every cell of the human body depends on water for life. Sweating and respiration (and thus body temperature regulation), carbohydrate and protein metabolism, transportation in the bloodstream, flushing waste (urine and stools), saliva formation, joint lubrication, and shock absorption (brain, spinal cord, and fetus) all require water to function optimally.
It becomes clear to see how many injuries may have been avoided and how times for recovery may be significantly reduced by applying the act of greater water intake, promoting blood flow – and thus nutrients and oxygen – to damaged tissues. Necessary for proper recovery!
Remember that this topic is referring to the general daily overall water intake of the individual. This post doesn’t even cover specific competition drinks, electrolyte-loss, specific quantities of water, and the coordination of all of these factors in the midst of a hectic, inconsistent schedule.
How Much Water?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), boys and girls between the ages of 9-13 should be consuming 2.4 and 2.1 L water/day, respectively (see Table 1). Len Kravitz, Ph.D., from the University of New Mexico, has a recommended intake similar to that of the WHO.7 It is worth mentioning that these values are regarding the sedentary individual.
Basketball players must be mindful that sweating considerably greater amounts on a regular basis than your sedentary counterpart puts your body through greater stresses. Therefore, because water is the key nutrient for all of the cells in your body, there must be a complementary elevation in daily water intake to ensure proper recovery and performance.
Exactly by how much should daily water intake be elevated?
This is not covered here because it is highly individualized and complex for the purposes of this post. It really depends on your specific situation, including current health status (any conditions), environment, height, weight, body type, level of activity, diet, and age. This is something you should discuss with your primary care provider. Just understand that the more often you sweat and exert yourself, the more water your system requires to thrive.
Table 1. Adequate Intakes for Water for Ages Nine and Older6
The main take-home here is to understand the importance of water (especially for an athlete). And try to get your hands on the cleanest source of water that you can find! If you are trying to minimize the amount of processing that has been done to the water (i.e. closest to its natural state) and chemicals in the water (from plastics), shoot for spring water in glass bottles.
We can take this topic a step further and touch on how else water can be of benefit to a basketball player. This is where hydrotherapy comes into the picture. Learn if hydrotherapy is right for you and find a practitioner in your area that potentially practices hydrotherapy and see if it works for you!
If you heed the research-driven tips offered in this article, only you will truly know the impact that something as simple as increased water intake can have not only on the performance of a basketball player, but as a healthy, functional human off the court as well. A system that relies on water 60% of the time must definitely be in tune with its water situation – as it is very easy to lose track of/forget how much water we drank in a day.
Many of you may already be sufficiently hydrated athletes which is great, and youmust maintain that. Let us know ways that you manage to stay hydrated throughout your season – everyone’s got their own unique method!
Osterberg, K. L., Horswill, C. A., & Baker, L. B. Pregame urine specific gravity and fluid intake by National Basketball Association players during competition. Journal of Athletic Training. (2009). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19180219