The Importance of Hydration in Football

The Importance of Hydration in Football

We tell you everything you need to know about hydration in football. What do we need to drink before, during and after playing football?

In my last post I discussed invisible training in football and what it consisted of. Following on from that, today we’re going to look at the first element of that training: Hydration.

Hydration in football info

How many calories are burnt in a game of football?

Football, being an intermittent, high-intensity sport with a relatively high competitive duration (90 minutes), is also associated with having a very high energy consumption rate. On average, around 16 kcal/min (Bangsbo, 2006).

Calories football match

This energy expenditure causes fatigue in players, leading to an increase in body temperature.

Our body, in order to maintain homeostasis, will focus its efforts on cooling the body down, with sweating being the main route of heat loss during exercise.

Why is it important to stay well hydrated?

While it’s true that this phenomenon is indispensable for maintaining a temperature balance, the production of sweat will cause a loss of fluids in the body (Maughan et al., 2007), resulting in dehydration.

Clearly, then, when we play football (or do any other type of exercise), our body temperature increases, and we start to sweat. However, not so obvious are the effects of this sweating if we don’t replenish those lost fluids adequately.

What happens if we become dehydrated?

One of the principal effects of dehydration is a drop in performance level resulting from this loss of fluid, as much in terms of resistance, strength (Ali & Williams, 2013) and speed (McGregor et al., 1999).

As Sawka and other researchers found in 2007, a loss of just 2% of body weight in fluids (which is equivalent to 1.5L in someone weighing 75 kg) is enough to result in a drop in performance level of a football player in a match.


How much fluid does a football player lose in match?

The average level of dehydration of a player over the 90 minutes of a football match is, approximately, 3,4% of body weight (Aragón-Vargas et al, 2009),

So, we can begin to understand why, as the 90th minute of the match approaches, we find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of the game.

Loss of sodium

Along with the fluids we lose through sweating, our body also loses electrolytes, with the most significant of these being sodium.

This mineral is essential for helping our body retain the fluids we take in, as well as for muscle contraction, so it’s just as important to replenish it as the fluids themselves.

What effect does the temperature of our environment have?

While it’s true that we sweat more as the temperature we’re playing in increases – our body temperature increases more and in a shorter period of time and our body needs to dissipate that excess heat.

It’s been shown that players competing at lower temperatures also suffer from considerable sweat-induced dehydration (Maughan et al., 2005).

So, replenishing fluids is important regardless of the environmental temperature.

In the next graphic you can see the fluids lost at different temperatures:


Average fluid loss and consumption over a 90-minute period. Team A: Sweat = 2193±365 mL, Intake = 972±335 mL. Team B: Sweat = 1690±450 mL, Intake = 423±215 mL.

Hydration Strategies

Because of all this, having a good hydration strategy is indispensable – before, during and after training and matches.

With the aim of maintaining our body’s water and electrolyte balance and thus avoiding both a drop in performance and the dreaded injuries.

Replenishing glycogen

Alongside this, as during a match our muscles consume energy stored in glycogen form, it’s necessary that, in addition to replenishing fluids to avoid a drop in performance, we also need to replenish that fuel.

That’s why we combine water intake with sports drinks rich in carbohydrates and electrolytes. You can find more information on this at this link.

Milk hydration

The ideal carbohydrate concentration for this type of drink is 4-8%.

Much scientific research of the last few decades has looked at hydration strategies in football.

Based on this literature, as well as my professional experience in the physical preparation and retraining of football players, I propose a hydration protocol for competition in football.

Pre-Match Hydration

If the loss of fluids leads to dehydration, it is essential we start matches perfectly hydrated. Prior dehydration will greatly accelerate the entire process detailed above.

For this, I recommend consuming 500 ml of WATER between an hour and an hour and a half before a match.

Hydration during a Match

Once a match has started, the sweating mechanism and consequent elimination of fluids will be triggered.

To combat this, consuming 150 ml of sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes is the ideal (because of what we were saying about the loss of fuel), every 20 minutes.

However, as each half lasts 45 minutes, it’s quite difficult to follow this rule (except when there’s a “cooling or hydration break”), so we need to try hydrate ourselves whenever we can.


Hydration at Half-Time

The 15 minute break is the perfect time to replace both the fluids lost and the glycogen consumed during the first half.

We should aim to consume around 400-500 ml of a sports drink.

Post-Match Hydration

Once the referee whistles for the end of the 90 minutes, it’s the moment to start thinking about recovery to be in the best possible shape for the next training session.

This rehydration process takes approximately 6 hours, so we should focus on fluid and electrolyte replenishment and consume, above all, water and juices or also some kind of recovery oriented drink.

As noted by Shirreffs and other researches in 1998, the consumption of fluids during this rehydration process should be at least 150% of the fluid lost during the competition, to ensure proper replenishment.

Hydration after match

To keep track of how much fluid you’ve consumed, I recommend using your own bottle both for water and the sports drink and making it part of your routine, both in training and in the game..


In conclusion, we should be conscious of our hydration level in football to guarantee:

  • A correct water balance in our body.
  • Being able to maintain performance level as high as possible during the whole training session or match.
As well as to avoid suffering any injury that would take us off the pitch.

Bibliographic References

  1. Sawka M.N., Burke L.M., Eichner E.R., Maughan R.J., Montain S.J., Stachenfeld N.S (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacemen. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:377-390.
  2. Maughan R.J., Shirreffs S.M., Merson S.J. y Horswill C.A (2005). Fluid and electrolyte balance in elite male football (soccer) players training in a cool environment. Journal of Sports Sciences 23: 73-79.
  3. Shirreffs, S. M. and R. J. Maughan (1998). Volume repletion after exercise-induced volume depletion in humans: replacement of water and sodium losses. Am J Physiol 274(5 Pt 2): F868-875.
  4. Ali, A, and C. Williams (2013). Isokinetic and isometric muscle function of the knee extensors and flexors during simulated soccer activity: effect of exercise and dehydration. J Sports Sci. 31(8):907-16.
  5. Aragón-Vargas, L.F., J. Moncada-Jiménez, J. Hernándes-Elizondo, A. Barrenechea, M. Monde-Alvarado (2009). Evaluation of pre-game hydration status, heat stress, and fluid balance during professional soccer competition in the heat. Eur. J. Sport. Sci. 9:269–276.
  6. Maughan, R.J., P. Watson, G.H. Evans, N. Broad, S. Shirreffs (2007). Water balance and salt losses in competitive football. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 17, 583-594.
  7. McGregor, S.J., C.W. Nicholas, H.K. Lakomy, C. Williams (1999). The influence of intermittent high-intensity shuttle running and fluid ingestion on the performance of a soccer skill. J Sports Sci. 17(11):895-903.
  8. Bangsbo, J., M. Mohr, P. Krustrup (2006). Physical and metabolic demands of training and match play in the elite player. J. Sports Sci. 24:665-674.
  9. Aragón-Vargas, L. y Mayol-Soto, L. (2008). Hidratación en el Fútbol: ¿Qué hemos Aprendido hasta Ahora?. PubliCE.

Related Entries

  • All you need to know about Hydration and Mineral Salts. Click here.
  • What happens when we become dehydrated? We let you know at this link.
Review of Hydration in Football

Importance - 100%

Before a match - 100%

During a match - 100%

After a match - 100%


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About Carlos Gallardo
Carlos Gallardo
Carlos Gallardo, in addition to working as a youth team trainer for Rayo Vallecano of Madrid, is passionate about scientific dissemination.
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