Simple Sips: Hydrating Techniques for Youth Athletes

Yes, I’m going to talk about water again :) WAIT! All the info will help, even if you don’t fall into the youth category. Besides, it’s a way to look busy at work so read on!

If you are the proud owner of a young athlete then you should know one important detail (other than the fact that your own life will need to take a back seat while those in your back seat get carted around like Ms Daisy)…adolescents dehydrate much faster than adults AND the signs are not as readily noticeable. The reasons? Well, dehydration occurs faster in those between the ages of 6-14 due to the fact that their bodies are still in need of more water for the growing of bones, sinews, ligaments, etc. More water is already being used for that pesky growing process, so the muscles and surrounding tissue don’t hold as much. This means that as your athlete plays their heart out, they are dehydrating at an accelerated rate. So, why don’t the symptoms show up? Well, technically they probably do, it’s just that most don’t notice them. The symptoms of dehydration can include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Achy muscles all over
  • Trouble collecting ones thoughts
  • Feeling thirsty (I know that’s a DUH, but by the time we feel thirsty we’re in the danger zone)
  • Slow in perspiration, no matter the temp
  • Slow in hand/eye coordination

Now, these don’t generally all hit at once and when your kid is playing for the win they tend not to notice a little cramp here or a dry mouth there. It’s not that the symptoms aren’t there, it’s that they have better things to think about. Your job is to focus on preventing dehydration altogether as opposed to simply trying to spot the symptoms. Once we reach the point of nausea, muscle cramps, slow perspiration and cotton mouth, chugging a liter will do no good. As a matter of fact, rapid water consumption at this state will more than most likely end in the water running for the nearest exit….meaning a barf bomb for your kid.

In order to prevent dehydration in young athletes, we need to plan ahead. For starters, don’t feed your kid crap on a training day! I see this over and over on the football field: a kid has a couple of hot dogs for lunch and washes them down with a soda…THAT is the one who passes out on the field. They end up starting a grueling 2 hour practice already dehydrated (food for thought: carbonated beverages pull water from your bones….yeah) and then end up on the ground or in the hospital. Use your parent brain and take care of them. Make sure they drink water throughout the day (that’s why schools have those fancy fountains!) and if practice or the game lasts more than 45 minutes OR is in extreme heat, consider sending a sports drink with your kid. Since sugar is the enemy of hydration, I opt for G2 or other low sugar drink. You can also water it down a bit as needed. The sodium and potassium help the body to hold onto water so as not to dehydrate during a game/practice session. I also really like the Gatorade chews. They have some that are simply for hydration and easy to carry in one’s pocket as well as some pre-game carbohydrate chews that help the body stay fueled without pulling from its own muscle. Head to the game with water in hand and place it on the sidelines for your kid (nobody wants their mommy running water out to them people!) and make sure to have a hydrating beverage in the car when you pick them up from practice.

Snacks can help with hydration as well. Vegetables are water dense and can provide a whopping 30% of our daily water IF we eat enough. I always send my son brocoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. at lunch, especially on game pr practice days. If your kids are more used to burgers and fries, offer them the knowledge on what it takes to become a better athlete. Example: world-class athletes don’t chow down on a double meat and fries before a game…. Train your gut and your butt and you’ll reap the benefits on the field or the court, simple as that. Ask your kid to try it for 2 weeks and see how they feel. My son noticed a large difference in how he felt when he took a homemade lunch and when he bought the processed junk at school. He now asks that I make his lunch and often times throws in some help as well. And he’s in highschool now :)

Limit seriously salty snacks before games, but don’t take salt out of your athletes diet! Athletes need more salt. That’s reason to become an athlete for some people… Keep the diet varied and spend just a little extra time getting prepped for games. Pack a cooler with healthy snacks, including LOADS of fruits as these provide hydration and quick energy. Think you’re too busy? Tell that to the doc who has to stick a huge needle in your dehydrated kids arm. Yeah, you can pull time. In today’s world most grocery stores have fruits, veggies and even recovery drinks already made and within close proximity to each other. Invest in refillable bottles and for goodness sake, make your athlete help in this process! Life isn’t a one man show, but a big production where we all have a part to play :)

Stay hydrated and stay healthy!