Helping Athletes Beat the Heat


Whether they are competing in the heat or training for the season to come, athletes need to know how to handle the heat safely and prevent dehydration.

Understanding Dehydration

A condition caused by the excessive loss of water from the body, which causes a rise in blood sodium levels. Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in and your body does not have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.

Recognizing the Signs of Dehydration

In addition to extreme thirst, signs of dehydration include:

  • Heat intolerance
  • Light-headedness/dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine and less frequent urination
  • Cramps, muscle tightness and spasms

Recognizing Heat-related Illnesses

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness. Symptoms may include painful cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool itself properly and results from a loss of water and salt in the body.

Heat stroke is one of the top three killers of athletes because, in its most severe form, the body’s heat-regulating system fails due to exposure to excessively high temperatures.

Signs of heat stroke include all of the symptoms of heat cramps and exhaustion, as well as:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating and/or flushing
  • Chills/goose bumps
  • Core body temp of more than 105 degrees
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Rapid breathing

How to Respond If Someone Has Heat Stroke Symptoms

If someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911. It is vital to help the person cool down before being transported to the Emergency Department.

How to Avoid Dehydration

To avoid dehydration, follow this general rule:

  • Drink 16 to 20 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before activity
  • Drink 8 ounces of fluid during or after your warm-up
  • Drink 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes of exercise
  • Drink at least 16 to 24 ounces after exercise

The first 8 ounces should be consumed immediately following activity.

For a more specific measurement, weigh yourself before and after exercise and then drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost.

Hydrating is important before, during and after activity because if you go into activity dehydrated, you are more likely to suffer a heat illness.

Go-to Drinks for Staying Safe and Hydrated

  • Water is all you need for activities that are low to moderate in intensity and an hour or less in duration. Avoid sparkling or carbonated water, to avoid bloating and discomfort.
  • Sports drinks should be used for high intensity activities that last more than an hour, especially if the exercise is taking place under hot or humid conditions and you are wearing protective sports equipment. This is especially important for athletes who have a history of dehydration and/or have a high sweat rate.
  • Alcoholic or caffeinated beverages are not recommended for optimal hydration. These beverages pull water from the body and promote dehydration. Beverages in this category include coffee, hot or iced tea, pop and energy drinks.
  • Fruit drinks or juices are not the best choice for hydration, because they contain too many carbs, too little sodium, and they can cause stomach upset.

Other Ways to Beat the Heat While Working Out

  • Acclimate yourself to the heat for two weeks before your season or competition.
  • Wear clothing that is light in color, lightweight and protects against the sun.


What can you do to remind yourself to drink before, during and after your workouts? What can you do to get your body used to higher temperatures before you begin training? How can you help your team stay hydrated? Let us know below.

Swelling, pain, redness and increased warmth in a leg may be warning signs of a life-threatening deep vein blood clot. If you have these symptoms, call your family physician or go directly to the Emergency Department.