In order to fully hydrate the muscles at practice it is important to concentrate on drinking the right type of fluid as well as the proper quantity.
Most gymnasts practice 3-4 hours three to five days per week. Any time an athlete’s practice is over 2 hours in length a carbohydrate/ electrolyte beverage must be used to maximize hydration. This includes Powerade or Gatorade. Other beverages such as propel, vitamin water, juice, and energy drinks do not have the correct concentration of sugars, salt, and potassium to be optimally absorbed during a workout.
A carbohydrate beverage is the preferred choice during a practice over plain water. It is more efficiently absorbed by the body so it can get to the muscles where it is needed. When the muscles get the hydration they need the body is able to let the extra off as sweat and the body is better able to keep itself cooled and at the proper temperature.
In addition to the type of beverage, quantity is important too. A 5’ tall 120 lbs level 10 gymnast who is practicing 4 hours per day should consume at least 60 ounces of a carbohydrate beverage per practice. This athlete may go through 2-3 gallons of it per week. A 4’6” tall 80 lbs level 5 gymnast who practices 3 hours per day should be drinking at least 40 ounces of a carbohydrate beverage per practice.
It may take an athete’s body a couple of weeks to adjust to the increase in fluid, so it is best to start slow and work up to your optimal hydration goal.
Remember, glucose or sugar is a gymnast’s primary fuel source during practice and competition. For this reason, it is necessary to incorporate a beverage with a 6% dilution of simple sugars . The energy from the beverage is quickly and easily absorbed into the blood stream and is delivered for use by the muscles. This will help keep your athlete’s blood sugar at proper levels during the duration of the practice and help keep him or her focused and prevent muscle fatigue.
When muscles are fully hydrated studies have shown there to be up to 33% greater muscle output. Gymnasts who are fully hydrated will notice increased energy in the last 90 minutes of practice and will notice a huge difference in their energy level when it comes time to condition during the last 30 minutes of practice.