Fluids for the young athlete

Fluids for the young athlete

Leslie Cox, RD

Is a highly regarded dietitian at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She is also an active and competitive athlete as well, participating in triathlons and races throughout the country. Sports Nutrition.

Fluids play a crucial role in maintaining the health and optimal performance of the athlete.  One of the most important functions of water is to cool the body.   During exercise, body water is lost as sweat. If the fluid is not replaced, a person becomes dehydrated. This can be very dangerous and lead to severe illness or death. Just 1% dehydration decreases performance.   For this reason, fluid restriction should never be used to reduce weight or meet a certain weight class.

Water is all that an athlete needs to drink for activities lasting less than 60 minutes. However, sport drinks can increase fluid consumption in children.  For events lasting longer than 60 minutes, a sport beverage is helpful in replacing electrolyte and carbohydrate losses.  

Children and teens are at increased risk for overheating and dehydration. They tend to lose more sweat because their skin surface area is greater in proportion to their body size and they often drink less to compensate.  Therefore, it is very important they drink enough fluids before, during, and after exercise to replace any losses. 

Hydration Recommendations

TimingFluid Amount
1-2 hours before event10-16 ounces of cool water
10-15 minutes before event 10-12 ounces of cool water
During exercise4-6 ounces cool water or sport drink every 15-20 minutes
After exercise2-3 cups (16-24 ounces) of cool fluids for every pound of weight lost (although may need more depending on heat, conditions, and intensity of exercise)

*Note: The lower amounts are appropriate for younger children.

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