While sports drinks and juices can provide hydration, water is still the healthiest option to keep your child hydrated throughout the day, particularly on game day.
Research has shown that adolescents and teens get less water than any other age group. This is mostly due to their access to drinks such as soda. To avoid dehydration, it is vital for your young athletes to consume water throughout their day.
One of the most important functions of water is to cool the body. When a young athlete exercises, their muscles generate heat and their body temperature rises. As their bodies get hot, they sweat, and their sweat evaporates as they cool down. This is what causes them to lose fluids, and the athlete will need to replace the fluids lost through sweating by drinking the adequate amount of water. If not, they upset their body’s water balance and become at risk of becoming overheated and dehydrated.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking four to eight ounces of water every fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise as a good starting point for hydrating athletes.
The ACSM provides the following guidelines for the maintenance of optimal hydration:
- Before Exercise: 16-20 ounces within the two-hour period prior to exercise.
- During Exercise: 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
- Post Exercise: Replace 24 ounces for every one pound of body weight lost during exercise.
Parents and coaches must ensure that their young athletes are drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Adequate hydration is essential to the performance of any athlete at any age. Here is an easy guide sheet to making sure your child is drinking enough water on game day. The recommended daily amount of fluids according to age is:
5 glasses (1 liter) for 5 to 8 year old’s
7 glasses (1.5 liters) for 9 to 12 year old’s
8 to 10 glasses (2 liters) for 13+ years
Before the game/practice
Drinking fluids before the big game or practice will lessen the risk of dehydration. Have you child have a good meal that also contains fluids like fruits.
- 1 – 2 hours before game/practice: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
- 10 – 15 minutes before game/practice: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
During the game/practice
Most kids wait until timeouts or breaks. But if they feel really thirsty, they should pause and drink anytime they feel so thirsty that it cannot wait.
Every 20 minutes: 5 to 9 ounces of water, depending on weight
- 5 ounces for a child weighing 88 pounds
- 9 ounces for a child weighing 132 pounds
Remember to adjust water intake based on the weather. Extreme cold or extreme heat can change your child’s hydration needs. Be cautious that your kid does not over-drink as it may cause hyponatremia.
After the game/practice
To help the body recover from exercise, drinking water post-game will help correct any lost fluids during the game or practice. Remember that your child doesn’t just lose fluids through sweat but also through urination.
To get your child to drink more water, particularly before, during, or after a game, try to not make sports drink or juices an option or available to them. Kids tend to prefer these sugary drinks; however, water is still best to fulfill their hydration needs. So remember to always have cold water ready!
Cramps are involuntary but intensely painful contractions in the muscles of the body that almost every athlete has probably experienced at least once. Although they are not long-term sports injuries, they cause excruciating discomfort. While they may only last a few minutes, cramps can definitely have a negative impact on an athlete’s in-game performance.
There are a few possible causes for cramps and they include:
- Muscle fatigue
- Heavy exercise
- Dietary mineral deficiencies
To prevent cramping, here are some tips:
Consume an adequate amount of fluids for your body to prevent dehydration.
Dehydration causes nerve endings to discharge, and this spontaneous discharge results in a muscle twitch which may lead to a muscle cramp.
Before competition, consume non-caffeinated, non-carbonated and sugar-free drinks throughout the day to keep yourself dehydrated. The average person excretes roughly 1.5 liters of urine per day, meaning you should be replacing those lost fluids with about 1.5 liters of water a day.
Consume fluids two to three hours prior to your game and again to minutes before. Never arrive at your game thirsty and never allow yourself to get thirsty during the game. It is ideal for you to consume fluids every 15 minutes and sports drinks are great for replenishing lost electrolytes.
Opt for Salty Foods
Choose salty foods or sodium rich sports products before, during and after exercise. Electrolytes regulate the shift of fluids in and out of cells. The electrolyte that should be most controlled during physical activity is sodium.
Both water and sodium are lost in sweat, and we lose more sodium just by sweating more than the other electrolytes. Replacement of water without sodium can result in severely low blood sodium levels which can thrust the body into hyponatremia.
When the concentration of sodium in the blood decreases, muscle cramps are likely to occur.
Prevent Carbohydrate Depletion
Muscle require carbohydrates to contract and energy to relax. Carbohydrates fuel us during exercise and carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our muscles. Our glycogen stores are typically depleted between 60 to 90 minutes of exercise.
Prevent cramping by consuming carbohydrates before your workout and during your workout if it is longer than 60-90 minutes. Once that store of glycogen has been depleted, we are at high risk for muscle cramps.
There’s a reason why sunshine is associated with happiness. It makes people feel good, and kids love to run around on warm, sunny days.
And for youth sports, bright, sunny days are ideal for outdoor games like baseball, softball, rugby, lacrosse, football, and soccer. Anyone who has been disappointed by a game being canceled because of rain or a snow blizzard can tell you that.
Also, your child will reap the amazing medical benefits of being out in the sun as sunshine activates the production of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is vital for building strong teeth and bones. However, too much exposure to the sun can be a problem.
The sun’s rays can be harsh on certain days and cause sunburn. Heat and humidity can cause heat exhaustion which involves symptoms like weakness, dizziness, and nausea. And heatstroke can cause fainting.
It is crucial to keep our kids well protected from the sun on those hot and sunny game days. Here’s how:
The sun is harshest during the midday which is between 10 am to 3 pm.
The sunscreen you choose should provide adequate protection. On a regular play day, SPF 15 is usually enough. But since SPF refers to the length of time a person can remain in the sun before they start to burn, SPF 30 and up is best for young athletes because their games can last up to a little under an hour.
SPF 30 will suffice for children aged 4 and up and should be applied before the child goes out. It’s ideal that it would be reapplied every couple of hours.
Your child likely wears a uniform, and there’s not much you can do about that. So make sure that you apply sunscreen on all of your kid’s skin that is exposed to the sun’s rays.
You child will need to increase their fluid intake on hot days. Make sure they are drinking plenty of water. You may not be there to ensure that they do particularly if they are in the dug-out, sitting on the sidelines, or in the field. This is why it’s important to remind them pre-game how important it is to drink water before, during and after the game to stay hydrated.
Explain the effects of dehydration and how they can recognize the symptoms. Tell them how dehydration can affect their sports performance. For younger kids, explain that not drinking enough water will make them sick and they may lose out the chance to play more.
After the game, get them to the shade and make sure they drink plenty of water.
It’s already a chore to make sure children eat healthy in a world where fast food is champion and soda can be found in almost any fridge in the country. However, children in the world of youth sports have an even more dire need to eat healthyand keep hydrated.
A child has their own duty to keep on top of their diet. When they go to a friend’s house, should they eat a whole bag of chips or grab some fruit when offered a snack? If you’re out at a restaurant, should they pick the fatty, greasy options? This kind of thinking, though, needs to be instilled in them – both on the field by coaches and off the field by parents.
Parents – Making Healthy Choices at Home
When a child is at home, they’re comfortable. They have a routine they fall into. How you set up this routine for them is how they ease into healthy habits.
For instance, say your child comes home from school and wants a snack. They go for a chip bag and sit on the living room sofa doing homework for a few hours, absentmindedly eating chip after chip. This casual behavior makes eating junk food a casual action, which is an unhealthy habit.
Take control of their dietary habits by both enforcing guidelines for food they can eat and when, as well as limiting your purchase of junk food for your entire family. You set the example in your home, so make sure that you stay healthy with your child – eat lots of healthy foods and drink lots of water.
This should also be something you keep in mind when it comes to youth sports snack rotations. If team parents are set up for snack schedules to pass out food at games, think about healthy options. Carrots, peanut butter crackers, 100% fruit juice popsicles and low-sugar cookies are all great examples of sports-friendly treats. Also, consider assigning someone to bring water bottles every game and/or practice.
Coaches – Informing Players of Nutritional Importance
As a coach, you have a responsibility to know high-level health information. Know the answer to the following questions:
● How big is a portion size for x food?
● What kind of desserts are healthy to eat?
● How much protein should your athletes eat?
● How many ounces of water should they be drinking every day / on practice days?
● What vegetables offer the most nutrition value for athletes?
● What are vegan/vegetarian options for staying healthy as an athlete?
If you don’t know, make sure you do your research. Players depend on you to know this kind of info in order to inform their parents and make better food choices themselves.
Talk to parents about this information as well. Parents of athletes should have access to information about how to feed and hydrate their children in a way that benefits them. Before your season starts, have a meeting with parents to ensure they know what you expect out of your athletes, and dietary guidelines to follow that will help them succeed.
It’s officially summertime, and that means trying to beat the heat. The whole country is experiencing a heat wave, and even states with usually high-heat summers are experiencing temperatures well above normal. If you’re involved in youth sports, you know better than most how it feels to burn up under the summer sun.
Just because we all have to deal with the summer heat during summer sports season doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to help manage it, however. Whether you’re a manager, player, parent or spectator, there are ways you can start beating the heat while you’re out supporting your team or playing your sport.
1. Stay Hydrated
This is likely the most important thing you can do in order to stay cool AND stay hydrated this summer. With heat comes sweat, and sweating out your body’s water content means you need to be constantly replenishing it.
Coaches should have coolers filled with water bottles for players ready at any moment. Parents also have a responsibility to make sure their children are well hydrated before they board the bus to the game or show up on the field. Don’t neglect yourself, either. Whether you’re a spectator, a volunteer or other adult that’s there to support the players, you also need to stay hydrated to stay cool and healthy.
OK this does not help with staying cool but it’s worth reminding your players, and family members to lather up ahead of being on the field, and chose a sport-specific, high-protection sunscreen. Most sunscreens now are lightweight non sticky, non-smelly and less stingy. This is not worth the short term (ouch!) and long-term risk to one’s health.
3. Invest in Shade
Cooling down can be hard when you’re out in the sweltering sun. The solution? Start blocking the sun out.
Umbrellas and other shade-makers are on the market for relatively cheap prices. If you’re a parent, go in on a large stadium umbrella or a tent with another parent and share. At a larger level, think about a fundraiser for shaded stadium seats or a shelter for the teams if your field doesn’t provide them. Not only will the players have a chance to keep out the sun, they’ll also be warmer, and drier when the weather turns cold.
4. Cool Snacks
Parents are usually enlisted to provide snacks for games and practices, and this is their chance to cool off their team. Pack a cooler full of ice and load it up with colder snacks. Don’t immediately turn to ice cream and sugary popsicles, though. Pack it full of sandwiches and fruit juice popsicles that aren’t loaded with sugar. Juicy fruits like oranges and other citruses can also pack vitamins, contain natural sugars and offer a relief from the heat.
5. Support Fans
Many sporting goods stores sell small, hand-held fans for cheap prices. Coaches and League Managers can also buy these or caps in bulk for discounted prices to match team colors (and have a logo added through a promotional item vendor). Include them as part of a membership package to be passed out with uniforms, or sell them to parents at the concession stand.
The extra funds can be used to support for the players – and matching accessories increase the “coolness factor” (pun intended) of your team!