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Teaching Young Athletes to Hydrate in the Heat

By Natalie Gempel 8.10.16

It’s an annual ritual: When the mercury rises, many of us flee indoors and crank up the A/C. But that’s not an option for football players, band members, and other young Texans who must brave the scorching August temperatures to train outdoors for their upcoming fall seasons. After all, as they say, football is king in the Lone Star State.

Some high schools find ways to escape the worst of the heat by adjusting practice times or forgoing pads and bulky uniforms, but there are other ways you can help your teen stay safe, even in extreme temperatures.

The science of hydration

We all know the importance of proper hydration when exercising in the heat. Drinking plenty of fluids helps regulate the body temperature and keeps energy levels high.

But let’s get specific: Athletes should drink 15–20 ounces of water about 1–2 hours before exercise, and another 8 ounces about 15 or 20 minutes before exercise. Once they’re at practice, it’s important to take frequent water breaks to maintain hydration levels — about 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes is ideal. Most coaches and trainers know this. If possible, check body weight before and after exercise, and drink 24 ounces of water for every pound lost less than two hours after you finish exercising.

Encourage proper hydration by sending your child to practice with plenty to drink. Consider getting a one-gallon water cooler to fill and chill before they hit the field.

What about sports drinks?

In addition to water, sports drinks can be very beneficial to athletes who are out in the heat for more than 45 minutes, although common brands such as Gatorade and Powerade aren’t always the best choices. The carbohydrates and electrolytes in sports drinks are vital for replenishing lost nutrients, but beware of drinks with excessive sugar and sodium.

Look for drinks that contain 6–8 percent carbohydrates, as higher levels may lead to an upset stomach. Ditch any sports drinks that contain caffeine, which actually dehydrates the body and puts stress on the heart.

Teens should know the signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion before it hits. Cramps, fatigue, and dizziness are signs that it’s time to take a break and retreat inside for a cool down.

Make sure your child is protected in case they get too hot by talking to your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent about a health policy through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.