The Importance of Hydration during Physical Activity

Feb 17, 2020 10:23:51 AM

"Why is hydration important? What can I do to ensure the best hydration for my child?"

These are probably some of the questions that you have as a parent when participating in physical activities with your children.

Humans are made up of 70% water. Our body loses water through breathing, urination, bowel movements and sweating throughout the day. Young athletes and children lose more body fluid due to sweating during training and physical activity, especially in our hot weather.

Sweating ensures that their core body temperature is maintained at an optimal level. However, losing a lot of body water also means that they must pay special attention consuming sufficient amounts of fluid to hydrate their bodies while having fun or training for a sport.

So be it playing ball games with your child or just simply having fun at the playground, it is important to ensure that your child is properly hydrated.

Hydration and its Importance

Hydration is important to prevent the occurrence of dehydration, especially in children due to their decreased ability to regulate their body temperature compared to adults. Dehydration is resulted from a negative fluid balance, whereby fluid intake is less than fluid loss, especially via sweating. Depending on his or her age, your child may also not be able to communicate the fact that they are feeling dehydrated.

When well-hydrated, there is improved physical and mental performance and optimal maintenance of heart rate and body temperature. Being hydrated will allow your child to perform at their best with improved concentration, thinking, cardiovascular function and overall well-being.

Fluid replacement Strategies

Hydration in children and young athletes can be slightly different compared to the adults in terms of what and how much they should drink. In general, children sweat less compared to the adults, which means that lesser sodium is being lost from sweat. Having said that, water should be the go-to drink for the young ones to consume. However, that’s not to say that they can’t have the occasional fruit juice (freshly squeezed of course) as a reward, with kids being kids.

Pre-training/ activity

  • Get your child to consume adequate fluids as early as 24 hours prior to exercise to ensure normal hydration level. Drinking 400-500ml immediately upon waking in the morning helps. Carry a water bottle everywhere and sip regularly.
  • Avoid over-use of caffeinated beverages like coffee, strong tea, cola and drinks that are promoted as “energy drinks”, which may increase the risk of dehydration due to diuretic effects on the body. Water and milk are the best choices.
  • Get your child to consume a bolus of fluid (200-300ml) during warm-up or just prior to exercising as a final fluid primer.
  • Check your child’s urine colour and concentration (Refer to Figure 1: Urine Colour Chart). If no urine is produced or is dark/highly concentrated, get your child to slowly consume a bottle of water about 2 hours prior to exercise to achieve a better hydrated status. Do not rely on thirst alone as an accurate indicator of hydration. Urine that is lemonade coloured is best.
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Figure 1 reference: https://www.usada.org/resource/nutrition/fluids-and-hydration

During Training/ activity

  • Begin fluid consumption early during training or physical activity, drinking every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Place water bottles at locations that are in view and easily accessible during training or physical activity.
  • Aim for cool fluids where possible. Adding ice or using insulation sleeves and pre cooling helps in the heat.

Post-Training/ activity

  • Try taking a body weight before and after exercise or physical activity. Drink 1 to 1.5 times the weight lost over the next four hours. Eg: 1kg of weight lost=1.5L of fluids to be consumed.
  • Ensure that gradual re-hydration is practiced as drinking large amounts of fluids in a short time can delay rehydration or cause hyponatraemia.

Know the right drinks for your child

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There are a variety of fluids that can be taken at different stages of training or physical activity, and water is not the only solution! Although water is suitable in the initial stages of training or physical activity, other forms of fluids (i.e. milk) easily retain fluid in the body better. Milk is 90% water, contains more electrolytes than leading sport drinks, and contains proteins that help rehydration and muscle repair too!

Summary

Hydration is important for optimal performance and health, especially in the heat. Hydrating well does not only mean drinking water, but also knowing the quantity, timing and type of fluids that can affect the performance of an athlete. Young athletes and children should monitor their hydration status by looking at their volume and colour of urine produced.

They are also advised to sip regularly on water during the day, and hydrate during training or physical activity, using water and also sport drinks when training at intensity or longer than an hour. Cool fluids are best, especially in the heat. After exercise, re-hydrating with water and milk is best. With poor hydration habits come consequences which can influence well-being and performance.

So, the next time you are out having fun with your young ones, be sure to pack enough fluids and drink up regularly to ensure that you are both well hydrated!

References

American College of Sports Medicine. Position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2007; 39:377-390 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. (2016, March). Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Retrieved from https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01802-X/fulltext Sports Dietician Australia (n.d.). Fluids in Sport. Retrieved from https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/fluids-in-sport/ USADA. (n.d.). Fluids and Hydration. Retrieved from https://www.usada.org/resources/nutrition/fluids-and-hydration/ YLMSportScience. (2016, December 16). How Well Do Different Drinks Hydrate You? Retrieved from https://ylmsportscience.com/2016/04/27/how-well-do-different-drinks-hydrate-you-by-ylmsportscience/

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