Most people place more emphasis on hydrating in the hot summer months, but proper hydration, especially for young athletes, is something that should be taken into heavy consideration throughout the year. As our bodies are made of almost 60% water, it is important to understand how vital keeping hydrated is to keeping athletes functioning properly.
Young athletes have an especially high risk of dehydration due to:
- Immature sweat glands;
- A faster heat absorption rate than adults; and
- Undeveloped thirst mechanisms, resulting in under-consumption of fluid before and during exercise
One of the most important functions of water is to cool the body, particularly during exercise. It’s important that coaches and parents pay close attention to young athletes to ensure they are consuming the proper amount of liquid and to recognize the symptoms of dehydration, which include: noticeable thirst, irritability, fatigue, weakness, nausea, headache, muscle cramping, dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty paying attention, and decreased performance.
Try these tips for proper hydration:
- Drink fluids before, during and after athletic event
- Use a water bottle with ounce markings to help regulate liquid amounts
- Replace sugary drinks with water during meals
While sport drinks that contain electrolytes can be beneficial after vigorous activity, water is always a great option. The proper amount varies depending on height, weight, type of activity and intensity, so check with your coach to make sure you are getting the right amount. A proper hydration plan is a vital component in a young athlete’s quest for optimal physical performance.