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TrueSport: June 2019


Reasons to invest in a multi-sport camp, why your athlete needs a hydration plan and how to hydrate your athlete if they don't like water this month from TrueSport.


How to hydrate your athlete if they don't like water

If you have a picky athlete who doesn't love the taste of water, or just one who's constantly on the go and bad at remembering to regularly sip from a water bottle, it can be tricky to make sure that he or she is staying consistently and properly hydrated. 

Brianna Elliott, MS, RD, LD, shares a few tips for getting young athletes to consume more water throughout the day-even if they claim to 'hate' water. 

Pick a fun bottle

Sometimes, all it takes to turn your athlete into a great water-drinker is providing the right vessel. "Young athletes should have a reusable water bottle with them throughout the day, even on days when they don't have practice or an event," says Elliott. 

Simply finding a bottle that can easily fit in a backpack or gym bag, that won't spill if it's tipped over, and that looks cool can make a big difference in how much your child is drinking. There are thousands to choose from, so let your athlete pick a new favorite.

Make water more interesting

"Add flavor to water. Keep it simple by adding some fresh lemon juice, or flavor it up further by adding frozen fruits," says Elliott. 

"Berries are a delicious option. Fresh cucumber and mint can also be added to water for a refreshing flavor." Allowing kids to pick their own flavor additions can make creating the perfect water combination more fun. 

Find out what they hate

In addition to adding flavor, you might have success by simply experimenting with temperature. "Many young athletes are turned off by room temperature water," says Elliott. 

"Kids might prefer ice cold water. In this case, a pitcher or cooler of ice-cold water should always be readily available to encourage them to drink whenever possible. In the case that kids prefer hot water, having tea or hot lemon water available will do the trick."

Add carbonation

Sometimes, a little fizz can go a long way. "I recommend providing beverages with similar tastes to favorites, but that don't have added sugars, so a carbonated beverage like La Croix instead of soda," says Elliott. "And if that's not quite sweet enough, adding a little bit of stevia or honey can add a more natural sweetness, which you can slowly decrease over time."

Dial back soda and juice

Technically, drinking soda or juice is hydrating, but it's not optimal from a nutrition standpoint. But cutting it out entirely can lead to less overall hydration, so it's important to shift to healthier options slowly. 

"For kids, it's better to wean them off soda or juice. If a child is used to drinking something, it's hard to cut it out cold-turkey," says Elliot. To do this, water down sugar-sweetened beverages. "Half water, half juice is great," she says. If your child is a soda fanatic, you could consider adding carbonated water to a normal soda to cut sweetness but not the carbonation. 

Alternatively, if the half-and-half taste isn't cutting it, compromise. "If a child is unwilling to give up soda or juice, I tell them to have at least half a cup of water before drinking the sweet beverage so that they aren't thirsty when drinking the soda," she says. "It helps them drink less and not drink soda due to thirst."

Add water-packed foods

"Eat water-rich foods throughout the day, such as fruits and veggies," says Elliott. "Berries, watermelon, mangoes, cucumber, carrots, celery, apples, and cauliflower are examples of water-rich produce. Parents should aim to keep these foods convenient at home, so their kids are more likely to snack on them. Additionally, fresh fruits and veggies should be emphasized as snacks at practices, rather than salty snacks that can be dehydrating."

Make it a game

Create a reward system for good hydration and make a game out of your athlete's drinking. "Come up with a way for your athlete to track his or her water intake," says Elliott. "Each day that they meet their needs they get a reward. Hydration tracking apps are a great way to do this and can make staying hydrated more fun." 


Remember, if you're telling your athlete that he or she needs to drink enough water, you should be drinking enough water as well! 

Make sure you're not sipping a soda instead of your water bottle when you show up at practices, and if you're pushing water-filled fruit and vegetable snacks on your child, you should be eating them too.


Five reasons why your athlete needs a hydration plan

There's no way to know exactly how much water each of us needs to consume daily. With varying levels of activity, finding the right balance of fluid intake for young athletes can seem like a guessing game. But, it's important to note that without a proper hydration plan, there are potential dangers from both dehydration and the lesser known over-hydration that can be a matter of life and death. So how can you help an athlete figure out the right hydration plan for themselves? 

Dr. Mitchell Rosner, a nephrologist with a clinical focus on fluid and electrolyte disorders, acute kidney injury and polycystic kidney disease (PKD), has dedicated much of his work at the University of Virginia to studying the potentially fatal impacts of over-hydration in young athletes. According to Rosner, over-hydration is one of the most preventable and least understood problems that coaches face. 

Many of us have spent most of our lives being told to make sure to drink more fluids, but several deaths in marathon races and at football practices due to over-hydration prove that you can get too much of a good thing. 

As we approach these hot summer months, it's important to know how to spot the symptoms of over-hydration and how to help your athletes develop a plan to stay balanced with their hydration needs on and off the field. 

1.  Effects and symptoms of over-hydration

Over-hydration can lead to hyponatremia, meaning too much water is consumed and an athlete's electrolyte balance is dangerously diluted. "People will feel bloated or have a bit of a headache or some nausea, but unfortunately, those are the same symptoms of dehydration," says Rosner. 

"But if you've been drinking a lot, you should be able to know that you should stop drinking. Even then, it may be too late-your stomach is already full of water. The best thing to do is to try to avoid getting there," Rosner adds. And, if an athlete is experiencing these symptoms or displaying signs of confusion, you should seek medical attention immediately.

2.  Dehydration v. over-hydration

"Dehydration in youth sports is relatively mild and rarely life-threatening, but water overload is absolutely life-threatening," says Rosner. While you should be urging your athletes to stay properly hydrated throughout the day, you shouldn't focus on filling them with gallons of water on game day. A few sips of water during most games or practices is usually all an athlete will need, adds Rosner. Remind athletes to sip when thirsty, but don't force them to consume a specific volume of water.  

3.  How to gauge hydration needs

"If you just use thirst as a guide, that's the optimal way to gauge how much you need," says Rosner. "Thirst is an innate feeling, and rarely would someone not know that they're thirsty." 

"There's a myth that if you're feeling thirsty, it's too late and you're already too dehydrated - but that's not the case," Rosner adds, and studies support this assertion. "It's rare a young athlete would ever get dehydrated in a baseball game or at cross-country practice," he says.  

4. How you can help an athlete make a plan

The best way to develop that plan, Rosner says, is by using the scale as a guide. "A good rule of thumb is that if you're gaining weight during an athletic activity, you're drinking too much. You shouldn't lose more than a few percent of your body weight -- that indicates dehydration -- but losing a little weight during exercise is fine. You can replace that after activity." 

Weigh your athlete before and after a few practices to get a sense of how much weight they lose during activity. Ask how they feel and note both their weight and feelings. Keep a record, and eventually, patterns will emerge. 

You'll be able to estimate how much your athlete should be drinking during practices and in competition. "If you feel lightheaded and you dropped weight, you need to drink more," says Rosner. "If you're feeling bloated, you're probably drinking too much."

5.  Teach self-advocacy

Coaches may push fluids on athletes during a hot game or match, but each athlete needs to be able to think for him or herself. "That's very important -- hydration is so individual, and everyone has different needs," says Rosner. 

If a coach is pushing athletes to drink a lot, it can be lethal. "There are cases of high school athletes following coaches' recommendations who died from over-hydration. Every year, we see fatalities, and the sad thing is, it's completely preventable," he adds. 

Make sure your athlete knows that they can say no to chugging a water bottle after running a lap and can ask for a drink break if thirsty. Your athlete should feel in control of their hydration plan - that's the key to developing an athlete who's successful in the long term. 


Rosner wants coaches to remember that "there's no calculation that's going to be perfect: people sweat at different levels, temperatures impact how much you sweat, how hard you work impacts how much you need to drink to replenish,"

Finding an optimal hydration plan that works for each athlete will take a little bit of trial and error, but making sure your athletes are staying properly hydrated will not only help them perform at their best, but it will also ensure the safety of your team throughout the sport season.

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TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, while also creating leaders across communities through sport.

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