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Close up of a child drinking a bottle of water

Thirsty? Got Water?

By: Christine Moore ATC, VATL

Do you find yourself confused when it comes to choosing the right hydration beverage for your child during athletic events and practices? With so many choices, including sports drinks, vitamin waters, energy drinks, and bottled waters, you may find yourself struggling to make the best choice. Finding what is best for your child will vary based on the type of activity, duration, and how much your child sweats. In most cases, water will be the best choice; however, in some cases, children will not drink enough of it to stay hydrated.

If your child participates in an intense activity for 60 minutes or longer, and you have difficulty getting them to drink water, a well-balanced sports drink may help your child maintain hydration levels. It’s important to remember that when your child sweats, they are not only losing fluid, they are also losing sodium, carbohydrates, and glycogen that needs to be replaced.

Energy drinks are not recommended. These beverages may contain excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine, which can cause upset stomach, nervousness, headaches, and excessive urination; which in itself causes dehydration. Caffeine can have even more serious side effects such as an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure, especially if taken with certain types of medications or supplements.

The bottom line is that most athletes get enough nutrients and minerals, especially sodium, from a healthy diet and a multivitamin. When hydrating during an athletic activity, the best choice is water. If choosing an alternative, look at the carbohydrate content. A good sports drink should have between four and eight percent carbohydrates. More than that may cause an upset stomach.

Hydrating during activity is important for maintaining body temperature and transporting the nutrients you need for energy. The American Council on Exercise has recommended the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after activity:

  • 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercise.
  • 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before exercise or during warm-up.
  • 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.

Some kids prefer vitamin water, coconut water, or sports drinks over plain water. Whatever you choose, it’s important to provide something they will drink enough of to maintain hydration levels. You can also try adding a squeeze of fresh orange, lemon, or lime juice to their water as a natural, healthy way to enhance the taste without adding sugar.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.