Hydration for Young Athletes

Published on 
August 22, 2013

tere-jones-author-101613 Proper hydration before, during and after competition is one of the most important factors in being a successful competitor for both children and adolescents. If a young athlete is not well hydrated, they become dehydrated, which can decreases their strength, energy and coordination and can lead to severe complications such as heat-related illness. When the young athlete becomes dehydrated, their core body temperature increases faster than in adults, which leads to more rapid dehydration. You can help prevent this by knowing the signs and symptoms.

Did you know your child’s athletic performance can be affected by even mild dehydration? Our feeling of thirst, which usually regulates fluid intake, almost always underestimates the actual fluid requirements during long periods of exercise, another reason why it’s important to know the signs of symptoms of dehydration, which I’ve listed below.

teen girls_shutterstock_100134932Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Dark urine
  • Urinating less often
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Decreased sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Sunken eyes
  • Irritability
  • Sudden decline in performance
  • Nausea and occasionally vomiting
  • Fainting or passing out

Staying Hydrated During Activity

For young athletes and non-athletes, the goal should be to start any sports activity fully hydrated. High school athletes require about 10 to 12 cups of fluids every day taken with snacks and meals to maintain daily hydration. Then, while in competition and training, young athletes require four to eight ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes to stay hydrated.

Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling off, but there is a possibility of losing too much fluid while sweating. Along with fluid loss, your child can also lose vital electrolytes such as sodium and chloride. To prevent this, fluids and electrolytes should be fully replenished during and after exercise.

Sports Drinks—Are They Good for Young Athletes?

A young athlete’s performance in "stop and go" sports, like soccer, basketball and tennis and in  exercise routines that are like these sports can be improved if they drink a well-balanced sports drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes during and after these activities. Adolescents and children will likely drink more fluids if the drink is tasty.

Fluid requirements for sports activities:

  • Less than 60 total minutes: Water is the best choice
  • More than 60 total minutes: Well-balanced sports drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates for energy. Select a beverage that provides approximately six to eight percent carbohydrates.

Helpful Hints for Hydration

  • Have your young athlete’s favorite flavored sports drink available
  • Add a desired flavor to water to make it easier to drink
  • Cool a drink in the fridge or in an ice bucket to make it more desirable

Benefits of Maintaining Hydration

  • It helps your child be at their best during competition and training
  • It helps your child more efficiently regulate their body temperature
  • It decreases the risk of heat-related illnesses

If you have a child or adolescent competitor in your family, or know anyone who does, pass this blog to them. I hope it will help in making them more aware, healthier and give them more of a competitive edge through improvement of their overall hydration for their future competitions. Please see my earlier blog on the topic of nutrition for the young athletes.