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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


Girl drinking water while being physically active.Keep your athlete hydrated

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension

It’s back to school time and for many young athletes that means it is back to training for their favorite sport. Proper nutrition is always important for children but it is especially important for the young athlete. A well-hydrated body is a body that can perform at its peak.


At practice or in the game, children can expect to sweat. Sweat is the body’s natural way of cooling itself. A hydrated body is better able to sweat and thus stay cool. Drinking cool water before, during and after exercise can assure good hydration.


One or two hours before practice or the game, it is recommended that youth drink cup to 2 cups depending on body size. Then, 10-15 minutes before the event, drink again but a little bit less. During sports, make sure your child is drinking every 20 minutes. Within two hours after the event, drink more. If exercise is intense enough for body weight to be lost, three cups of fluid should be consumed for every pound of weight lost.


The best choices for fluids are water, 100% juice (some like it diluted), and sports drinks. It is not likely you will have a measuring cup at the practice field so to help your child gauge how much to drink encourage them to drink until they no longer feel thirsty and then a little bit more. The little bit more is because athletes sometimes don’t feel their thirst adequately. It is easier to stay well-hydrated if you start that way. Encourage your young athlete to drink water throughout the day.


Some signs of dehydration include infrequent urination, dry lips, sunken eyes, and poor energy levels. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, get a bottle of water in their hands. Signs of heat-related illness include clammy skin, muscle spasms, muscle pain, nausea or the heart beating at a fast rate. If your child experiences these symptoms, take them to a cool place, remove excess clothing and give them a cool drink. Seek medical help if symptoms don’t improve.


Participating in sports provides many benefits to children. Help them have the best experience by assuring they are adequately hydrated.




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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