LSU AgCenter Nutritionist Emphasizes That School Athletes Need Adequate Fluids

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/15/2005 2:54:22 AM

2005 Back-to-school News

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 AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

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

Findings from a recent study presented at the 51st American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual meeting in Indianapolis 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, Reames explains.

Dehydration of just 1 percent to 2 percent of body weight (only 1.5 to 3 pounds) for a 150-pound athlete) can influence performance negatively. Dehydration of more than 3 percent of body weight increases an athlete’s risk of heat illnesses (cramps, exhaustion, stroke).

"Educating youth athletes regarding the importance of hydration and strategies to enhance this process is vital," the nutritionist says, offering several ways 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.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist recommends cool water for most types of exercise of one hour or less under moderate temperature conditions. She recommends sports drinks or diluted juices containing carbohydrates in concentrations of 4 percent to 8 percent for intense exercise events lasting longer than one hour. Carbohydrates supply energy.

These beverages are also suitable for hydration during exercise events lasting less than one hour. "Since they are flavored beverages, they are often preferred over plain water," Reames explains.

The nutritionist advises to drink 1/2 cup to 1 cup fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. 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 lost in sweat.

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

For information on related nutrition, family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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