David R. Lamb, Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Your athlete trains hard, plays to win and sweats through it all. In the intensity of a tough practice or game, teen athletes don’t realize the amount of sweat they lose, and that puts them head to head with a nasty competitor – dehydration.

It’s critical for teen athletes to beat dehydration so they play at their best, even in the final minutes of the game. It’s also critical for mom to know the best way to help her young athlete refuel and recharge to get the win.

Hydration is critical to athletic performance. Fluid losses of as little as 2 percent of body weight (less than 4 pounds in a 200-pound athlete) can impair performance by increasing fatigue. It’s common for some athletes to lose between 5-8 pounds of sweat during a game, so it’s easy for athletes to become dehydrated if they don’t drink enough to replace what is lost in sweat.

You want the best for your teen athlete. When deciding between sports drinks and water for your athletes, consider the additional benefits of sports drinks when stocking up on drinks to keep in your athlete’s gym bag. Scientific research suggests that sports drinks outperform water because sports drinks:

  • Encourage voluntary drinking when athletes are hot and thirsty. Sports drinks with a light flavor and small amount of sodium encourage young athletes to drink, and drinking fluids is the first-line of defense against dehydration.
  • Stimulate rapid fluid absorption. Sports drinks such as Gatorade have the right mix and amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes to speed fluids and carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
  • Help keep athletes in the game. Sports drinks can help teen athletes avoid dehydration and other heat-related problems such as early fatigue, heat cramps, light-headedness and heat exhaustion.
  • Aid performance. Carbohydrates in sports drinks helps athletes perform better in both power and endurance efforts.
  • Speed recovery. The carbohydrates and electrolytes in sports drinks help refuel muscles and speed rehydration.

With a winning game plan to help your teen athlete drink the right fluids at the right times, you’re providing them the strategy for a high-powered performance that matches their will to win.

As you cheer your athlete on from the sidelines, keep in mind the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s “Fluid Replacement for Athletes” position statement. Do your part to keep your teen athletes educated, informed and most of all, hydrated, during practices and games.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association “Fluid Replacement for Athletes” Position Statement

  • Educate athletes on the effects of dehydration on physical performance.
  • Inform athletes on how to monitor hydration status.
  • Encourage coaches to mandate rehydration during practices and competitions, just as they require other drills and conditioning activities. Fluid replacement should approximate sweat and urine losses and at least maintain hydration at less than 2 percent body weight reduction.
  • During events, when a high rate of fluid intake is necessary to sustain hydration, the CHO (carbohydrate) composition should be kept low (e.g., less than 7 percent) to optimize gastric emptying and fluid absorption.
  • A proper hydration protocol considers each sport’s unique features. If rehydration opportunities are frequent (e.g., baseball, football, track and field), the athlete can consume smaller volumes at a convenient pace based on sweat rate and environmental conditions. If rehydration must occur at specific times (e.g., soccer, lacrosse, distance running), the athlete must consume fluids to maximize hydration within the sport’s confines and rules.