How much water should a youth athlete drink?
While many elements go into athletic performance (i.e. training, slee/recovery, nutrition, technical skill, etc.) few are as important as hydration. People who lose 2% of their body weight during exercise are considered to be dehydrated. This can affect their ability to regulate body temperature and may create an electrolyte imbalance, both of which could lead to decreased performance, cramps, fatigue, heat stroke or worse.
Temperature, exercise intensity, sweat rate, and altitude should be taken into account when determining how much fluid your child should be drinking. The more extreme the temperature (cold or hot), intense/long the exercise, higher the sweat rate, and the higher the altitude when they are competing would all call for an increase in hydration.
So how do you know how much water/fluid your child should be consuming?
A good rule of thumb for athletes is to divide their body weight in half and drink at least an ounce per pound of body weight throughout a typical day (e.g., someone weighing 140 pounds should drink 70 ounces of water a day). Another way is known as the Rule of 8: drink a big glass of water eight times throughout the day (eight total).
Here is a quick hydration guide provided by TEAM USA:
Before Exercise: Drink 16 ounces of water two hours before physical activity begins, and another 8-16 ounces right before exercising.
During Exercise: Every 15-20 minutes, drink at least 4-6 ounces of fluid during vigorous exercise. For less vigorous exercise, decrease the amount slightly.
After Exercise: Drink 16-24 ounces of water for every pound lost during physical activity. Consuming rehydrating beverages (like fruit smoothies) and eating watery foods (such as fruits and vegetables) along with salty ones can help replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Hydration is a key factor in the health and performance of any athlete (and yourself). Now go drink a big cup of water… your body will thank you.