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Making sure players are staying hydrated is a safety practice that all involved need to be cognizant of.

Along with Tackling, Blocking and Stunting, Proper Hydration is a vital fundamental that youth coaches need to stress to young athletes.
Dehydration of 1-2 %of body weight can affect performance
Dehydration of > 3% of body weight can disturb physiological function and increase risk of developing heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is taking place in the body of a dehydrated athlete?
The main process of fluid loss is sweating, which is critical for maintaining body temperature.
80% of heat loss is done through sweating on a humid day.
98% of heat loss is done through sweating on a dry day.
Not balancing fluid intake with fluid loss is the primary reason athletes get dehydrated.

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration we should be aware of?
Symptoms generally worsen as dehydration continues:
* Thirst and muscle discomfort
* Flushed skin, fatigue and muscle cramps
* Dizzy, headaches, vomiting and chills
 
What can occur as a result of these symptoms of dehydration?
* Rise in core body temperature
* Increased stress on cardiovascular system making the heart work harder
* Blood becomes thicker, which makes it harder to deliver oxygen
* Time to reach exhaustion is decreased dramatically
* An increase in perception of effort to do the same task in experienced
 
When is it the most important for athletes to consume liquids - before or during exercise?
Hydration needs to be the focus of athletes throughout the day.
Monitor your urine: urine too dark or odorous, drink more.  Clear and without odor, you are hydrated.
7 % of athletes show up at practice or games dehydrated.
During exercise, drink to match your water losses.
Don’t forget, dehydration can set in after exercise too.
Bottom line is: drink before, during and after all sports related exercise and let urine output and color be your guide.

Sports drinks versus Water
Water should be the mainstay of your hydration.
Sports drinks do encourage you to drink more because of salt, sugar and taste.
Salt and electrolytes help with faster absorption of fluid.
Carbohydrates give the body an energy boost that is readily available upon drinking.
A tip to follow is that water is better for before and during and sports drinks are better for after.



What to feed your young athlete:

Here are some simple pregame snacks that meet those requirements. Remember, snacks this close to game time should be carbohydrates you can easily digest.

1. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches

“I’m a big fan of peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole grain bread,” says Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, who works with the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans. “The combination of healthy fat and protein, along with the fiber from the whole grain bread, provides the athlete with the optimal combination of nutrients to keep [him or her] fueled for a longer workout. Athletes are usually coming off a three- to five-hour fast right before practice and will need calories to get through a longer practice.” (Stack Media)

RELATED CONTENT: 9 secrets young athletes want parents to know

2. Fruit

A quick fruit snack to top off energy and fuel the brain could include bananas (high in potassium), apples (high in sugar and moderate fiber)”, melon slices, or grapes.

3. Energy bar

Fuel up with some protein bars that have no artificial sugars.

4. Trail mix

Make your own trail mix with almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried fruit, and/or granola. Add dark chocolate chips, whole grain cereal, or light popcorn to change things up a bit.

5. Cottage cheese

Buy the low-fat snack size. Pair it with snack-sized canned fruit, tuna, or green pepper and tomato.

RELATED CONTENT: 4 ways your athlete knows you are in their corner

6. Frozen fruit bars

Choose bars with fruit or fruit chunks at the beginning of the ingredients list.

7. Pretzels

Buy the salt- and fat-free kind.

8. Dry cereal

Choose low sugar options (no Cap’n Crunch or Frosted Flakes!) Eat alone or mixed with nuts, raisins or dried fruits.

9. Yogurt

Buy it plain or with added fruit. Add your own fruit or granola.

10. Carrot or celery sticks

Dip them in hummus and serve with a half a piece of whole wheat pita bread.

It takes planning

It’s not always convenient to give your child healthy snacks. Eating healthy usually takes planning and preparation. But it’s just as important for your child’s performance as practice.

“Proper sports nutrition is recognized as a vital building block in athletic performance,” said Leslie Bonci, a nationally renowned sports dietitian and Chief Nutrition Officer for Come Ready Nutrition. Don’t handicap your children’s performance; Give them – better yet, teach them—foods that will help them play their best.

Janis B. Meredith is a sports parenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.



 
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