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Keeping Young Athletes Hydrated

Keeping Young Athletes Hydrated

By Cindy Milner, RD, CSSD

The warmer days of spring, summer and early fall increase the risk of dehydration for young athletes.   Active teens and children often fail to recognize and respond to the signs of dehydration such as; thirst, fatigue, irritability, cramps and headaches.  Dehydration, if allowed to progress, can lead to dangerous health consequences, such as heat stroke. However, even relatively mild dehydration, a loss of just 2% of body weight from fluid loses by sweating and evaporative loses during exercise, can contribute to fatigue and impaired sports performance.  

While it’s important to guard against dehydration, the opposite extreme of over-hydration, is also not recommended.  Over-consuming fluids may leave the athlete feeling bloated and uncomfortable during training or competition.

The goal for all athletes is appropriate hydration to meet their fluid needs while avoiding both under- and over-hydration.  

Here are some hydration tips to guide your young athletes:

Before exercise:

·         Drink before playing!  It’s very hard to “catch-up” on your fluid needs if you begin exercise dehydrated.  This is especially important on hot days and when doing multiple training sessions or events per day. 

·         Consume large glass of water or sports drink (about 14–20 ounces or 400–600 ml) two to four hours before training or competing.

·         During the school year, carry a water bottle with you to drink throughout the day and stop frequently for sips at the water fountain between classes.

·         Monitor your urine color to ensure adequate hydration. Urine should be pale yellow (the color of lemonade).

·         If you are prone to muscle cramps, you may lose a lot of salt in your sweat. Athletes who are “salty sweaters” often benefit from adding extra salt to their diet during periods of intense training.  Salty sweaters should choose salty snacks and foods, like pretzels, pickles or soups and broth, and add a little extra salt to their meals when training intensely, especially in hot weather.

During exercise:

·         For exercise lasting less than an hour, water is generally adequate and appropriate for hydration

·         However, if training is intense, involves intervals or is longer than 1 hour, consuming a source of carbohydrate during exercise has been shown to improve performance.  Sports drinks are a good choice because they provide both carbohydrate and fluid.

·         Experiment in training to identify the amount of fluid you can comfortably drink while exercising.  Know the types and amounts of fluids that work best for you prior to competition.

·         Many athletes require about 13–26 fl oz (400–800 ml) every hour of exercise, preferably in smaller amounts taken frequently, such as 3–7 fl oz (roughly, ½ to 1 cup of liquid or 100–200 ml) every 15 minutes or so.

·         Drink from your own sport bottle so you can easily track your fluid intake and, of course, decrease the chance of spreading germs from sharing bottles.

After exercise:

·         Ideally, you should check your weight before and after exercise.    For each pound lost during exercise, drink about 20 oz (2 ½ cups) of fluid.

·         In general, water is adequate for rehydration. However, if you need to hydrate quickly to compete or practice multiple times in one day, or if you have lost a large amount of fluid, drinks that contain sodium and a small amount of carbohydrate, like sports drinks, will provide quicker rehydration.

·         Eat lots of fruits and vegetables!  These high water content foods also provide fluids to help with rehydration.

·         Good hydration choices for immediately after intense exercise provide protein and carbohydrate to help with muscle healing and glycogen (carbohydrate stores) restoration, as well as fluid.  Some fluid suggestions that contain fluid, protein and carbohydrate are low-fat chocolate milk, specialty “recovery drinks” (i.e. Gatorade Recovery), or yogurt smoothies. 

Some athletes may need more specific or individualized guidance to help them maximize their sports fueling and hydration.  Consulting with a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietitian (CSSD) at Cayuga Performance Center can provide that competitive edge.  Contact Cayuga Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance at (607) 252-3580 or www.cayugamed.org for more information.

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