Hydration is important to daily life. No really. We can only survive for *three days* without water. But beyond a basic necessity, hydration also plays a crucial role in helping elite athletes (yes, even our 4U Mighty Mites) perform at the highest levels. Why? Because if we don’t replace fluids lost through sweat, we become dehydrated. And when that happens, problems can follow. Like reduced athletic performance, higher risk of injury, muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion and more.
Sounds like unlikely “worst case scenarios”, right? Ok, but even mild dehydration can cause issues on the Gridiron. A study by the University of Connecticut found that a 2% loss of body weight due to dehydration can reduce running speed by up to 10%. And a study by the University of California, Berkeley found that a 1% loss of body weight due to dehydration can reduce power output by up to 3%.
The amount of fluids we lose, and therefore need to replace, depends on a number of factors including (1) intensity and duration of exercise, (2) climate and (3) individual sweat rate. But here are a few quick tips when it comes to hydrating:
- Start early. It’s easer to come prepared rather than try to play catch up after you’re dehydrated. Experts recommend drinking water two to three hours prior to activity and every 20 to 30 minutes during exercise.
- In most cases, water is generally sufficient to keep hydrated. You might consider alternatives (such as coconut water or a sports drink) for exercise that lasts longer than an hour, is especially intense or in the heat of summer. But choose wisely, as sports drinks are often high in sugar, caffeine or sodium!
- Even if you’re not actively exercising, your body still needs fluids. So as Dory (from Finding Nemo) might say, “just keep sipping”.
Guidelines are always helpful. But in the end, it's most important for your kids to listen to their bodies and take breaks when needed to rest and rehydrate. Speaking of, here are a couple tips when planning those all-important halftime snacks!