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How Hydration Impacts Youth Athlete Development

January 25, 20233 min read

As a parent of a young athlete, you want the best for your child's performance on the field or court. One often overlooked yet crucial aspect of athletic success is hydration. Proper hydration can significantly impact your child's energy levels, endurance, and overall sporting performance. We will explore the effects of hydration on fatigue and provide recommendations for optimal fluid intake and electrolyte balance to help your young athlete excel in their chosen sport.

The Connection Between Hydration and Fatigue

  • Dehydration and Fatigue: When your child participates in physical activities, they lose fluids through sweat. If these lost fluids are not adequately replaced, it can lead to dehydration. Dehydration, even in its mild form, can cause fatigue and reduce your child's endurance and strength during sports.

  • Body Temperature Regulation: Sweating is the body's natural cooling mechanism during exercise. Dehydration can hinder this process, causing your child to overheat more quickly, leading to decreased performance and potential heat-related illness.

  • Muscle Function: Proper hydration is essential for optimal muscle function. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and weakness, making it harder for your young athlete to perform at their be at their best.

  • Pre-Exercise Hydration: Encourage your child to start hydrating well before their sporting event. Ideally they should drink about 500-600ml of water 2-3 hours before exercise.

  • During Exercise: During physical activity, it's crucial to maintain hydration. Encourage your child to drink 200-300ml of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise, especially in hot or humid conditions.

  • Post-Exercise Rehydration: After the game or practice, ensure your child rehydrates to replace lost fluids. Have them drink about 600-700ml of water for every pound (0-45kg) of body weight lost during exercise.

The Role of Electrolytes

  • Sodium: Sodium is the most crucial electrolyte lost through sweat. To replace sodium, encourage your child to consume sports drinks or electrolyte-infused water during and after exercise, especially if they engage in intense physical activity.

  • Potassium: Potassium is another electrolyte necessary for muscle and nerve function. Bananas, oranges, and potatoes are good sources of potassium, which can help your child maintain electrolyte balance.

  • Calcium and Magnesium: Calcium and magnesium are also vital for muscle contraction and relaxation. Ensure your child has a balanced diet which includes dairy products, leafy greens, and nuts to meet their calcium and magnesium needs.

By focusing on hydration with one of our soccer athletes we were able to help reduce the incidence of cramps during games. This athlete would consistently get cramps on their calves in the later stages of games and couldn't figure out why. We realised that although they were drinking more water to help with hydration, they didn't include any additional electrolytes. By including some sodium into their water and some magnesium tablets the day before, morning of and the day after they were able to get through games without cramps and remain in the game for longer. This helped them perform better later into games without too much fatigue.

The Final Word

Proper hydration is fundamental component of your young athlete's success. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, reduced performance and increased risk of heat-related issues. Encourage your child to drink adequate fluids before, during and after exercise and pay attention to their electrolyte intake, especially when they engage in vigorous physical activities. By prioritising hydration and electrolyte balance, you can help your young athlete reach their full potential on the field, court or track.

Learn more on strength and conditioning for youth athletes and increasing your sports performance at our website and the Inner Athlete Podcast (available on Spotify and YouTube).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete

#youthathletes #teenathletes #youngathletes #hydrationforathletes #hydrationforteenathletes

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