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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


young athlete drinking waterDrink for optimal athletic performance

Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Whether it’s soccer, football, basketball or baseball, what young athletes drink will impact their athletic performance.


According to the American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, getting enough to drink is one of the most important things to do. Lots of body fluid is lost during physical activity and those fluids need to be replaced. If your young athlete thinks it doesn’t matter that they don’t drink, let them know that even slight dehydration can impact their performance (equal to losing 2-3 pounds of body weight in a workout for a 150-pound person).


Fluid has several functions other than simply satisfying our thirst.


  • Fluid helps us produce energy from the food we eat and helps us transport nutrients.
  • Fluid helps us cool down. As we sweat, the droplets of water hit our skin and the air cools the skin and the blood just under our skin. The cooler blood flows through the body helping it to become cool.
  • Fluid acts as a cushion to protect tissues and organs from the jolts of athletic activity.


To prevent dehydration, drink fluids before, during and after athletic events and practices. Sometimes it’s hard to feel thirst when you are exercising so just drink 1/2 cup to one cup every fifteen minutes to prevent problems. Remember that pouring water over the body may make it feel cooler but it doesn’t rehydrate. Only drinking (or eating foods with a lot of fluid) can do that.


For the most part, water is the best choice for good hydration. People who are working out for longer than an hour can benefit from sports drinks. They provide electrolytes that can be lost during intense exercise and they provide carbohydrates for fuel to the muscles. Soda and juice have carbohydrates too, but it’s too much for the body to be able to absorb and use during the exercise period. That excess sugar can cause diarrhea, cramping or nausea. The carbonation in soda can make you feel full and not thirsty when you really need to drink. Some people dilute fruit juice and that is fine. Keep in mind that the diluted fruit juice does not provide electrolytes.


It’s cool to carry a water bottle so find the neatest looking one around and put it to good use. It helps your performance!


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Last update: Monday, September 11, 2017