| By Irina Belfer-Lehat
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Staying balanced with fluids and electrolytes is a key concern to every competitive athlete. Very common complains, such as fatigue and cramps, could be easily avoided if properly hydrated, especially during the hot and humid summer months.

Water is the number one ingredient every cell and tissue in your body needs to survive. The fluids that circulates throughout your body dissolves minerals known as electrolytes. Electrolytes help properly regulate fluid levels inside and between cells, and they are vital for the proper functioning of your cells, tissues and muscles. It is very important for a tennis player to know how much to drink before, during and after a match.

Dehydration can force your heart to work harder, your core body temperature to rise, and as a result, your performance will fall drastically.

Overhydration is another extreme that can decrease your athletic performance. Too much fluid will cause the electrolyte concentration in the body to become overly diluted, thus compromising athletic performance.
Finding your fluid/electrolyte balance is the key to sustaining long and multiple matches. Your hydration zone is the perfect level at which you perform your best. Here are some tips on how to maintain your fluid/electrolyte:

Check your weight before and after playing tennis. Two percent of body weight loss after a prolonged game is normal, but proper rehydration must be followed in order to replenish that supply.

►Monitor your hydration status by checking your urine color. A light-yellow color is considered adequate hydration. A darker urine (the color of an apple juice), suggests that more fluids are needed.

►Water is the best choice of drink, but if you play for more than two hours, a sports drink will be necessary. A sports drink provides carbohydrates to help sustain your blood glucose level. Electrolytes, such as sodium, help to retain the fluids you are drinking.

A registered dietician, specializing in sports nutrition, can help you calculate the exact amount and type of fluids needed for optimum athletic performance.

Irina Belfer-Lehat

Irina Belfer-Lehat of Nutrition Solutions Co. is a New York State-licensed dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. Irina Lehat RD Nutrition Solutions offers group classes starting in September, for kids in kindergarten through high school. Small groups, affordable prices! Mention this article and receive 20 percent off any services. For more information, call (917) 769-8031, e-mail irinalehat@gmail.com or visit www.irinalehat.com.