| By Irina Belfer-Lehat

Staying balanced with fluids and electrolytes is a key concern to every competitive athlete. Very common complaints 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 of the body needs in order to survive. The fluids that circulate throughout your body dissolve minerals known as electrolytes. Electrolytes help properly regulate the fluid levels inside and between cells, and 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 the match.

Dehydration can force your heart to work harder, your core body temperature rises, and as a result, your performance will fall dramatically. Overhydration is the other extreme and it 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 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 keep your body’s fluid and electrolytes better-balanced:

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

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

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

►Consult a professional
A registered dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition, can help you to calculate the exact amount and type of fluid 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.