A healthy diet and good eating habits are essential for a young athlete’s development and performance. Similarly, proper hydration helps an athlete to maintain peak performance.
When an athlete exercises, the body’s temperature is elevated and the body sweats to cool itself down. During this process, body fluid as well as critical electrolytes are lost. If the body isn’t replenished with fluids and electrolytes, dehydration may occur and increase the risk of a heat illness.
Jackie Berning, Ph.D, a registered dietician and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who serves as a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science & Safety Committee, offers six hydration tips below that athletes of all ages should keep in mind.
1 • Basic guidelines for hydration include 2-3 cups of fluid in pre-exercise mode (2-3 hours prior to exercise) and 1-2 cups approximately 15-20 minutes before exercise. Berning encourages enough fluid to maintain weight during the workout, and three cups of fluid for each pound lost post exercise.
2 • Hydration status is affected by temperature, intensity of exercise, humidity, and type of clothing. Intense exercise in hot and humid conditions and/or with pads on increases the amount of fluid your body loses and also increases the amount you need to drink to stay hydrated. Adjust your intake accordingly.
3 • In extreme conditions such as high heat and humidity, fluid loss, due to sweat loss, will be higher. During these extreme times it may useful to weigh yourself before and after practice and games to monitor fluid loss. It is important to replace fluid lost during exercise quickly so that the body is hydrated for the next activity.
4 • Dehydration in athletes often occurs during practice and/or games when the body loses more fluid than is being taken in. While 60-70% of the human body is made up of water, losing as little as 2% of your total body weight can lead to decreased athletic performance.
5 • Some common signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, dry mouth, thirst, decreased urine output, and dark yellow urine. If experiencing any of these symptoms, stop exercising and drink fluids.
6 • When water is in plain sight, athletes, especially kids, drink more. Athletes should keep a water bottle with them throughout the day so they can come to practices and games well hydrated. If water is not provided at practices or games, athletes should bring at least two full water bottles with them so they don’t run out.
Additional information from US Lacrosse about nutrition and hydration is available here.
While general nutrition guidelines can benefit athletes of all ages, there are some recommendations that are most applicable for younger athletes, ages 12 and under. US Lacrosse has collaborated with Coaching Healthy Habits to develop additional resources specifically for younger players, including Five Ways Water Wins.