When doing any type of sport or physical activity, it is always a good idea to keep your body hydrated, especially when outdoors. This is true for tennis, and doubly true for tennis in Hong Kong, particularly in the summer time. When doing any type of strenuous physical activity in Hong Kong’s humid, subtropical climate, keeping your thirst quenched is an absolute must!
Drinking appropriate amounts of the right beverages can really help your tennis game, as well as your health in general.
Before talking about what to drink, let’s look at what not to drink:
It is wise to avoid products which contain caffeine. Although caffeine does provide an energy boost, it also encourages urination, which can interrupt your tennis match, but more importantly, promotes you to lose water. Caffeine raises your heart rate, which is unnecessary because exercise will be doing the same thing. It also raises blood pressure. Ma juang, ephedra, and ephedrine additives all have similar effects to caffeine and are also best avoided during exercise.
Alcohol is another product best left off the tennis courts. Like caffeine, it encourages water loss. Alcohol also increases lactic acid production, which in turn decreases your bodies ability to tap into fat stores for energy. Very counterproductive, when playing a sport! Of course, we all know alcohol’s more famous effects! After the match is done, feel free to enjoy a nice cocktail with friends from your tennis club, but keep the booze off the court.
Fruit juices (with high fructose), sodas and diet sodas (even those without caffeine) are not particularly good options either, although they are not as bad as alcohol or caffeine.
One of the best options is the tried and true classic: h2o. Water is the most popular hydration option, and for good reason. It is effective.
These days, many people opt for a sports drink or enhanced water of some kind. These too can be very effective, but you need to read the labels carefully when looking for a hydrating fuel.
You want to maintain an energy and electrolyte balance. The energy comes from the drinks sugar content (something which water does not possess). Beverages with 6-8% carbohydrate, such as Gatorade and Powerade, are effective, and have been shown not to cause cramps. Anything higher than 8% carbohydrate takes longer to digest, which leads to fluids sitting in your stomach and jostling about. This can cause cramps and nausea. Drinks with less than 5% carbohydrate are not particularly effective when it comes to picking up an energy boost, but they can be useful for sodium loading and general fluid intake/hydration. When looking at carbohydrate types, glucose is the easiest to absorb, followed by fructose and then sucrose. Many sports drinks include fructose, but when selecting one, you want to make sure that fructose or corn syrup is not the first ingredient listed on the label.
If you find a sports drink you like, but notice it has higher than 8% carbohydrate – fear not! You can still use it to pre-hydrate before the match, or rehydrate after match. If you do wish to use the product during play, you can dilute it with water.
Even when you don’t feel thirsty, drinking before, during and after exercise is recommended. Drink about 2.5 cups of water a couple hours before the game or practice, another cup about fifteen minutes before and 1-2 cups every 15-20 minutes of play. In the hours following, it is recommended to drink two cups of fluid for every pound lost.
When it is extremely hot, be careful not to drink too much water. This can dilute your sodium content. Typically, this only occurs when exercising in extreme heat for 4+ continuous hours.
Hong Kong tennis players, when you hit the courts this summer, remember to stay hydrated!