Rachel Brewer, MD

Proper fueling and hydration is incredibly important for any athlete.  Inadequate hydration can put your young athlete at risk for heat illness, as well as other consequences, such as poor performance, ongoing fatigue, and difficulty recovering from harder workouts or competitions. Set your athlete up for success by teaching them appropriate hydration strategies during practice and race day.

Here are some easy tips to follow for proper fueling and optimal performance:

Assess hydration prior to activity

Kids need to be aware that they need to be hydrating properly during days/times they aren’t active. Educate children and adolescents about the positive effects of ample hydration.

Hydration pre-activity

Just prior to activity (15-30 minutes), young athletes should be taking in at least 5-8oz of fluid.  Several hours prior to games or practices, focus on taking in around 2 cups (16oz of fluid).

Water versus sports drink

In general, sports drinks (for example, Gatorade or Powerade) are not necessary for maximizing hydration until an athlete is participating in constant activity over one hour.  Pre and post-activity hydration should not be centered on sports drinks.  Sports drinks contain extra calories, and can contribute to tooth decay and obesity if used improperly.  They are also not recommended beverages to have with meals.

How much to drink during activity

Hydration during activity is critical to avoiding heat illness or effects of dehydration, even on cooler days. Children and adolescents should be taking approximately one cup (8oz) of fluid every 15-20 minutes.  Remember, sports drinks containing electrolyte supplementation should be considered for constant activity over one hour.

Hydration post-activity

Rehydration needs differ on the size of athlete and intensity of prior exercise, but in general, young athletes should be taking in at least 2 cups (16oz) of fluid.  Sports drink does not contribute to recovery, and carbohydrate and protein rich foods should be consumed to aid in recovery.

Energy drinks

Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks.  They are not recommended for consumption by young athletes and can actually hinder appropriate hydration.  Caffeine can also be detrimental to performance, and can be dangerous in large quantities.

Stay fueled and have fun!