Helping young athletes keep up with their hydration
Often overlooked, proper hydration is crucial for health and athletic performance.
Skating, playing, and winning the game is at the forefront of every young athlete’s mind. It’s up to parents and coaches to help make sure they get enough water to stay hydrated. Below is a brief look into the process of dehydration and ways to support kids as they exercise, compete, and have fun.
Crucial for health and athletic performance, proper hydration is often overlooked in children. By the time kids say they’re thirsty, chances are they’re already dehydrated. Not only can they experience uncomfortable dehydration symptoms, but athletic abilities can suffer as well.
In fact, practically every measurement of performance—such as strength, speed, power, agility, and reaction time—decreases with dehydration. In children, the negative effects of fluid loss can start occurring at as little as a 1% decrease in body weight.
During exercise, a body will generate heat, raise body temperature, and produce sweat as a response. Sweating leads to fluid loss if it isn’t properly replaced. This can then cause muscle fatigue and exhaustion, which in turn affects function and increases the risk of injury. The process of fluid loss can begin before the child has even hit the ice.
According to research, up to 75% of 8- to 18-year-old athletes come to practice already dehydrated. Avoid this by encouraging them to drink water in the morning as well as before and during the game or practice.
What can adults do to prevent fluid loss and dehydration? First, keep an eye on the many warning signs. These can include dry mouth, sticky saliva, lack of energy, headache, dizziness, and more. If you see kids experiencing any of these signs, it’s important to get them to cool down (or to a cooler space), provide cool water, and continue to monitor them. Urine output is also another indicator of dehydration. If your child has dark-yellow urine or is urinating small, infrequent amounts, it may be a sign he or she is not getting enough to drink.
Another way to help ensure proper hydration is to always bring a big sports bag packed with water bottles, snacks, and beverages. Drinking an adequate amount of water is necessary, but having healthy snacks on game day is also beneficial. From whole grains, nuts, to granola bars, providing the nutrients kids need to perform can make their whole sports-playing experience better.
Sports drinks are a great way to replace electrolytes, but aren’t necessary depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise. You may want to keep some on hand for picky eaters, but be sure to steer clear of energy drinks—they are just not the same.
Talk to your child about proper hydration. Remind them that staying hydrated is important. Each time they eat or drink, it’s an opportunity to make their body healthier. For a handy hydration schedule and further tips on keeping young athletes hydrated, please see the accompanying resource by Axio Athletic.
This infographic was created by Axio Athletic
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