Youth Athlete Dehydration – Water Breaks
Youth athlete dehydration is quite common especially in younger players as they simply do not know to drink water during games and practices. Why is it important and what can we do to help them to get in the habit?
Fluids, especially water, are very important for athletes to perform well. What you drink, how often and in what quantity makes a big difference. Fluids regulate the temperature of your body and replenish the water lost as sweat. The hotter the environment you compete in and the humidity level will also affect how fast you lose water and will need to replace it more often than normal. Youth athlete dehydration is the number one reason performance drops and put you at risk of heat exhaustion or stroke.
Avoiding youth athlete dehydration will require drinking fluids before, during, and after exercise. The amount will depend on your environment but also on the intensity of your activity, your age and body type and size. Youth athletes should drink about 500 mL of water 2 – 3 hours before competition. While competing, drink 150 – 300 mL of water every 15 – 20 min. When active for less than 60 minutes, water is fine. For competitions lasting over 60 minutes or in hot, humid weather, the loss of electrolytes will be an issue so use a sports drink that will help replace salts as well as carbohydrates for energy. After a competition is over, youth athletes need to drink a quantity of fluid equal to the amount lost as sweat. The average amount will be around 1.5 L of fluid per kg of body weight lost.
A post workout meal consisting of fluids with salts and a snack consisting of carbohydrates and protein will help to kick start the recovery process. Rehydration, rebuilding energy stores and muscle recovery are important to be able to compete again. If you are not exercising for a long period of time (over 60 minutes) the use of sports drinks will only lead to an excess of calories being taken in and the risk of weight gain, dental issues and excess salt intake. Sports drinks are designed for athletes, not as a daily drink.
To help athletes to learn to drink enough fluids during practices and games, regularly scheduled drink breaks are recommended when athletes are new to sports. They need to learn to drink often and not wait until they are thirsty which is often too late. Monitoring their urine color will help them to recognize when their body shows signs of dehydration. Darker yellow urine is a sign of not drinking enough water. Too much is really not an issue at all.
Fluids are an important part of any nutrition plan. Daily requirements, not including games and practices, are calculated using your body weight. For example, a 160 lb athlete would need:
160 lbs/2 = 80 oz/day. Add about 20% to include workouts makes it 96 oz.
Conversion: 8 oz = 250 mL = 1 cup
In this case: 96 oz = 3.0 L = 12 cups
Check out this REALLY Cool video that shows a lab testing the effects of dehydration on a professional rugby player…
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