"It's not good enough for YOU to be in the water, the Water has to be in you" -Hydration status of Swimmers
Fluid replacement is frequently overlooked by athletes competing in water and there is limited research available assessing hydration status and female swimmers. Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of fluid needs; therefore, an athlete must be aware of their hydration status.
The purpose of this study was to examine perceived hydration status versus actual hydration status of DIII female college swimmers.
Methods: Data was collected from 25 athletes from the College of Saint Benedict swim team over three consecutive practices. IRB approval and signed informed consents were obtained. Subjects completed surveys before and after practice regarding their own perceived hydration status on a scale of 1-10 (1= very hydrated, 10= very dehydrated). Subjects answered two survey questions to test their knowledge of dehydration's effects on the body before the first practice. Urine samples were collected immediately before and after three practices; urine specific gravity was determined through using a refractometer. Each athlete was given a 32 ounce water bottle during practice that was refilled as necessary. Water bottles were returned immediately after practice and total fluid intake was recorded.
Results: Urine specific gravity of all athletes before practice indicated an averaged 1.017 ±0.009 [1.001-1.036], indicating minimal dehydration; after practice athletes were well hydrated with an average specific gravity of 1.009 ±0.007 [1.000-1.030]. Data pooled from three practices indicated 23 out of 64 swimmers came to practice either significantly (SG 1.021-1.030) or seriously (SG >1.030) dehydrated. Improvement in hydration was illustrated in 19 of these swimmers during practice [4 swimmers demonstrated no change.] There were 27 swimmers minimally dehydrated (SG 1.010-1.020) before practice; throughout practice 24 of these individuals improved status to well hydrated (SG <1.010) and 3 stayed minimally dehydrated. Before practice 14 athletes came well hydrated with 12 staying well hydrated and 2 decreasing to minimal dehydration. Fluid consumption during practice averaged 16.11oz ±7.098 [2-32]. There was no correlation between self-perceived hydration status and actual urine specific gravity. Nearly all subjects (92%) were either well informed or possessed some knowledge of the signs of dehydration and dehydration's effects on athletic performance.
Conclusions: Only 22% of swimmers came to practice well hydrated while 36% were significantly or seriously dehydrated. Individuals coming to practice well hydrated drank more than those significantly dehydrated at the beginning of practice. The athletes were unable to accurately assess their own hydration status before and after practice. The swimmers know the signs and symptoms of dehydration but many are coming to practice chronically dehydrated. The obstacles preventing adequate fluid consumption need to be identified.
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Research Advisor: Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD