Fall Sports and Hydration for Young Athletes

Balls of different sports Ð isolated over a white background

Warm humid weather and intense high school sports practices, sometimes twice a day, lead to a lot of sweating and risk of heat exhaustion or more serious heat stroke.  While hydration may not be at the top of the list for a successful athletic performance, it should be.  According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, appropriate hydration before, during, and after physical activity is an important ingredient to a healthy and successful sports team.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees, issuing a policy statement in 2011, on the importance of hydration with youth sports, including strategies to safeguard against heat illness especially during fall sports.

Tips to Prevent Dehydration

It’s of key importance to hydrate well, both for safety and performance.  Here are some tips to educate athletes and the coaching staff, as well as parents to safeguard against heat illnesses:

  • Athletes cannot simply rely on thirst to maintain hydration. Instead, a schedule for hydration before, during, and after practice or games may be more helpful.
  • Weighing the athlete before and after the practices, since proper hydration will show no- or minimal- weight change from practice.
  • An example hydration schedule for a high school athlete could be: drinking 16 ounces of fluid two hours before physical activity, drinking another 8-16 ounces 15 minutes before physical activity, and during physical activity, drinking 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. After physical activity, drinking 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during physical activity.
  • Athletes will continue to lose fluid after practice as they continue to cool their core body temperature and urinate. Using urine color as a measure for hydration status can be really helpful. Bold yellow urine to dark yellow or apple juice colored urine signifies dehydration.

Athletes should aim to start every practice fully hydrated.

What to Drink

Water is the best choice when physical activity is less than 60 minutes in duration for most athletes.  However, sports drinks may be appropriate if hot and humid weather, excessive sweating, or prolonged physical activity for more than 60 minutes is occurring. Athletes with excessive sweating need sufficient electrolytes along with fluid for appropriate rehydration.  No- and reduced- calorie sports beverages provide electrolytes while limiting carbohydrate intake while sports drinks with 6-8 percent of carbohydrates are appropriate in these situations noted above. Excessive carbohydrates during athletic performances can result in a bloated feeling or abdominal cramping so fruit juice and concentrated drinks prepared from powders are not advised.

Even a 1 percent loss in body weight can affect performance, resulting in noticeable thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness, irritability, fatigue, weakness, nausea, headache, muscle cramping, dark yellow urine and difficulty paying attention.  It’s obvious all of these symptoms could contribute to a decrease in athletic performance and scholastic achievement.  Encourage your athletes to stay hydrated by educating them on the signs and symptoms, as well as how to prevent dehydration.

For other low-calorie methods to stay hydrated, check out this article.



Jen Haugen, RDAn award-winning dietitian, Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, is the author of the new book, “The Mom’s Guide to a Nourishing Garden.”  Jen specializes in inspiring moms to create the recipe to a nourishing life through gardening, good food, family, and faith. Her TEDx Talk, “How Moms Can Change the World”, features two simple ideas that can transform a family. Connect with her at www.jenhaugen.com or on Twitter @jenhaugen.

Items of Interest

August 24, 2016 Lifestyle Advice