The importance of hydration for good health and properly functioning body systems cannot be overstated. As the warmer months approach and outdoor activities increase, special attention needs to be given to proper hydration and to the prevention of heat illnesses for all, but especially for young athletes.
Because the body cannot store water, we must constantly provide and supply it with water to maintain our body’s many functioning systems. While water contains zero calories, it is considered a nutrient, comprising 55-70% of our body’s composition.
Acting as a cooling agent for our body, water is also essential for all major bodily functions, to include:
Contrary to popular belief, simply drinking water when you are thirsty is not good advice when it comes to properly hydrating the body. When the thirst mechanism activates, it is usually a sign the body is already under hydrated (and possibly headed toward dehydration). At this point, the body has to catch up to function properly.
How Much Water Is Enough?So, how much water should young athletes drink? The answer is - it depends. Water intake is based on several variables, and even within that set, will vary according to the needs of the individual. General considerations of hydration might be based on the length of the activity, environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, the length and intensity of the practice or game, and additional gear the athlete may be wearing, such as football or hockey gear.
While considering some of the environmental factors of hydration, consideration must be given to the individual needs of the athlete, such as the weight and age of the athlete, the intensity level at which the athlete trains or plays, the current physical conditioning of the athlete, and the current hydration level of the athlete. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)recommends drinking four to eight ounces of water every fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise as a good starting point for hydrating athletes.
The ACSM provides the following guidelines for the maintenance of optimal hydration: