Teaching Athletes About Hydration
Let’s face it, as parents and coaches we can not be with our athletes 24/7, and as they get into Middle School and High School, our influence becomes less and less. As a result, I am a huge advocate for educating athletes from a young age to take an active role in their training and game day preparation (yes, I know they don’t always head our advice, but we have to try!). One area we can easily educate our athletes on is hydration.
Why Do You Need To Be Hydrated?
Put bluntly, athletes who are not properly hydrated before practice or competition are not going to perform as well as they could be. In other words, what you want to get out of your body, you have to put into it! Your body needs a combination of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes in order to perform at its best. In a recent Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) study, they found that 70% of high school athletes show up to practice dehydrated. And the consequence of dehydration is lower performance.
How Can You Tell If You Are Properly Hydrated?
Here is the crazy part! Figuring out if you are properly hydrated is a super easy process – even a 5 year old can tell you if they are hydrated enough when given the proper information. In the language of our kids – if your pee looks like lemonade, you are good – if it looks like apple juice or darker, then you are dehydrated. Easy peasy. To make it really fun and visual, Gatorade created this very simple poster (or as the Gatorade Sports Moms called it – a Pee Chart) you can hang in the locker room or share with your athletes. Click on the image above to download the poster as a PDF.
Another way to measure fluid loss – which is not always as accessible – is to have your athlete weigh themselves before exercise and after. If they are properly hydrated there will be no weight difference. For every pound of sweat they left on the field, they need to replace it with 16 ounces of fluid consumed slowly over the next 30-60 minutes. Again, pretty simple stuff.
What to Drink Before & After Exercise
Before exercise your athlete needs to:
- Drink ~5-7 ml per kg of body weight four (4) hours before exercise
- Drink ~3-5 ml per kg body weight two (2) hours before exercise
For example – if your athlete weighs 130 lbs., they need to drink about 10 oz. of fluid four hours before workout and another 4-6 oz. two hours before. Now this is a rough estimate and by monitoring their urine color, athletes can determine whether they need more or less fluid intake.
After exercise athletes need to drink 16 oz. for every pound of weight lost due to sweat.
With school schedules and our generally busy lives, it is not always possible to follow the pre-exercise hydration schedule exactly, but with basic hydration knowledge our athletes can better prepare to perform at their best.
This information was gleaned from the notes I took during a presentation by GSSI scientists given to a group of Sports Moms in a recent Gatorade sponsored event. The GSSI was founded to help athletes optimize performance and well being through research and education in hydration and nutrition science.