Proper hydration is crucial to the performance of any athlete at any age. Surprisingly, a more critical element in an athlete’s diet isn’t what they eat but what, how much, and when they drink. The hydration needs of pre-adolescent children are higher compared to adults. Coaches and parents should ensure that their young athletes are drinking enough fluids.
When a child exercises, their body temperature rises as their muscles, generate heat. They sweat as their bodies get hot and their sweat evaporates as they cool down. A child needs to replace the water lost by sweating by drinking the adequate amount of fluids; otherwise, they upset their body’s water balance and run the risk of becoming overheated.
To avoid dehydration, it is vital for your young athletes to consume fluids before, during, and after a game or practice. Some coaches and parents promote the drinking of fluids for children by offering them what kids feel is a more exciting alternative to plain water. Sports drinks increase voluntary drinking by almost 90% in children ensuring they are drinking enough.
Here is a guide sheet to making sure your young athletes are meeting their hydration requirements:
Before a game/practice
● Drinking fluids before the big game or practice will reduce the effects of dehydration.
● A good meal with containing water like fruits
● 1 to 2 hours before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
● 10 to 15 minutes before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
During the game/practice
● Any time a child feels thirsty
● During timeouts or breaks
● Every 20 minutes: 5 to 9 ounces of a sports drink, depending on weight (5 for a child weighing 88 pounds, 9 ounces for a child weighing 132 pounds)
● Encourage the ability to drink whenever they want and not to wait until they are told to take a break
Adjust fluid needs based on the weather, the amount of equipment worn, and duration and intensity exerted at the game or practice.
Be mindful that kids do not over-drink as this may cause hyponatremia.
After the game/practice
The purpose of post-game hydration is to correct any lost fluids during the game or practice, helping the body recover from the exercise.
● 30 minutes after the game or practice, sports drink containing protein and carbohydrates such as chocolate milk are ideal to not only re-hydrate but also helps the body recover by enhancing muscle repair and replenish glycogen stores in the muscles.
● Replace all fluids that may have been lost after the game or practice through urination.
● Eat a good meal with foods that contain water.