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Spring Sports Series: Keeping Young Athletes Hydrated

Young athlete drinking waterIt’s important to stay properly hydrated. During exercise, water and electrolytes are lost in sweat. If the loss is not replenished, this could lead to a decrease in performance and potential life-threatening, heat-related injuries. Younger athletes are more at risk for dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Inability to concentrate
Athletic performance is at its best when fluid balance is achieved. Optimal hydration should replace sweat loss. The Institute of Medicine recommends that sodium, potassium and carbohydrates be included in replacement beverages. An adequate amount of sodium may help prevent cramping, and carbohydrates provide extra energy. Cramping for nutritional reasons is almost always due to a loss of fluid and sodium. Note that the amount of electrolytes in a sports drink is less than the amount in sweat. 3 Easy Ways to Assess Hydration:
  1. Sweat Rate: To determine sweat rate, first weigh yourself naked or in typical workout gear. After working out for about an hour, change into dry clothes, wipe off all sweat and weigh yourself again. The difference in body weight is your sweat rate assuming you didn’t drink or eat during the workout. For every pound lost, replace with 16 oz of fluids within 24 hours.
  2. Specific Gravity: Testing the specific gravity of your urine will also help to assess hydration. Test strips are available at most drugstores along with directions on use. Urine specific gravity should be within the range of 1.010 to 1.020.
  3. Urine Color: Assessing urine color during exercise is another way to monitor hydration. The lighter the color, the healthier the hydration.
The amount of fluid and electrolytes needed for exercise depends on many different factors which affect sweat loss including age, gender, clothing, weather, medications, recent heat exposure, intensity and duration of exercise, and fitness level. When beginning exercise it’s important for athletes to be well-hydrated. At least 4 hours before physical activity begins, drink a ½ cup of fluid for every 40 pounds of body weight. Hydrating during exercise is very important, but amounts will differ based on an individual’s sweating and duration and intensity of exercise. Hydration should occur during every break. Once completing exercise, it’s essential to replace what was lost. By adding extra sodium into the diet in the recovery phase, thirst is increased and fluid is recovered. Fruits and vegetables are hidden sources of fluid.
Roberta Anding