Sixty to seventy percent of the human body is made up of water. We constantly experience loss of water through sweat, when we go to the bathroom and even when we breathe. So it’s it makes sense that we need to constantly replenish our bodies’ water supply by drinking fluids. Fluids also play a role in the regulation of body temperature. We drink water on a hot day, not only to quench our thirst, but also to cool us down.

Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration or over-heating. A loss of just 2% of bodyweight due to dehydration will negatively impact how our bodies perform by causing fatigue, reduced ability to make decisions and electrolyte imbalance. Common symptoms of dehydration include headache, dizziness, thirst, blurred vision and inability to focus. When we are physically active or the weather is hot we need to be especially careful because water loss occurs more rapidly.

Fluid intake needs can vary greatly from person to person, based on his or her body size, level of physical activity, and the temperature. It is especially important for kids and adolescents that participate in sports or other movement-based activities, such as dance, to stay ahead of the dehydration curve. The goal is to be well hydrated before the start of any physical activity. Young athletes should start drinking an hour before they start playing and continue to drink throughout the activity whether thirsty or not. Any sweat loss should be replaced immediately following exercise.

Following are some basic hydration guidelines for active kids and adolescents.

  • Drink 8–20 ounces of fluid (water or sports drink) an hour before physical activity.
  • During practice and games drink 3–6 ounces of fluid every 15–20 minutes or 12 to 24 ounces fluid per hour.
  • Use water to hydrate if exercising under an hour. Consider a sports drink to replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat if exercising over an hour or if temperatures are hot and there is significant sweating.
  • A good indication of sodium loss is if there is a white residue on the skin or clothing. A sports drink would be a good choice for rehydrating and replenishing electrolytes.
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid immediately following exercise or more if thirsty or temperatures are hot.