Back-to-School: Athletes Need Adequate Fluids Cautions LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  4/19/2005 10:28:34 PM

News You Can Use For July 2004

Every competitive and recreational athlete needs adequate fuel, fluids and nutrients to perform his or her best. Dehydration impairs performance by causing cramps, weakness and headache according to LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Untreated, dehydration can cause heat stroke, but Reames says heat illness is one of the most preventable sports injuries.

Findings from a recent study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting showed that kids at a sports camp were not properly hydrated, even when water and sports drinks were accessible and coaches encouraged routine drink breaks during activity.

According to the report, more than two-thirds of kids participating in a soccer camp were dehydrated early in their participation in the camp. Since dehydration increases medical risk for more serious heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the researchers emphasized the importance of adopting a fluid replacement strategy for young athletes engaged in continuous bouts of activity.

Experts recommend athletes hydrate with fluids before, during and after activity or competition. Fluids before, during and after exercise are an important part of regulating body temperature and replacing body fluids lost through sweat.

Dehydration of just 1 percent to 2 percent of body weight (that’s only 1.5 to 3 pounds for a 150-pound athlete) can negatively influence performance. Dehydration of greater than 3 percent of body weight increases an athlete’s risk of heat illness, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke. Educating youth athletes regarding the importance of hydration and strategies to enhance this process is vital.

Reames offers several tips to promote proper hydration:

• Drink before, during and after practices and games.

• Drink early — by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

• Include liquids with the pre-competition meal.

• Drink fluids based on the amount of sweat and urine loss during the activity.

• Replace fluids lost in sweat and urine after the competition.

Reames recommends cool water for most types of exercise of one hour or less under moderate temperature conditions. Sports drinks or diluted juices containing carbohydrate in concentrations of 4 percent to 8 percent are recommended for intense exercise events lasting longer than 1 hour. These beverages are also suitable for hydration during exercise events lasting less than 1 hour.

"Since they are flavored beverages, they are often preferred over plain water," Reames points out, adding that such beverages contain carbohydrates, which help to provide energy, especially in strenuous exercise of one hour or longer.

During exercise, drink 1/2 - 1 cup fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. After exercising, drink at least 2 cups of fluid per pound of body weight lost during exercise. Foods eaten after the event are usually sufficient to replace electrolytes.

The risks of dehydration and heat injury increase dramatically in hot, humid weather. If athletes compete under these conditions, every precaution should be taken to assure that they are well hydrated, have ample access to fluids and are monitored for heat-related illness.

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or

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