Fluid Management and Hydration in Sports

Drinking water.Being hydrated means having enough fluid, or water, in your body for it to work properly. Weather, activity and illness can all affect hydration. If your body does not have enough fluid, you are dehydrated.

There are many warning signs of dehydration. One of the most common warning signs is feeling thirsty. By the time your body is thirsty, you are about 15 percent depleted in your fluid needs. This is your body’s way of telling you it needs more water.

  • Other warning signs include:
    • Headache
    • Irritability
    • Weakness
    • Cramps
    • Nausea
    • Decreased performance
    • Dizziness
    • Chills
    • Excessive fatigue

Dehydration.The causes of dehydration can be divided into two categories:

  • Things that involve our body
  • Things outside our body that affect hydration levels

Some causes of dehydration that involve our body:

    • Fever
    • Stomach illness
    • Poor fitness
    • Being overweight or obese
    • Taking certain medications such as cold medicine

Some causes of dehydration outside our body:

    • High temperature and high humidity levels
    • Long periods of exercise without a rest break
    • Exercising many times in the same day
    • Not drinking fluids during rest breaks
    • Improper clothing for the climate 
  • Be educated about fluid management and the warning signs of dehydration.
  • Watch for warning signs of dehydration.
  • Wear the right clothing based on the weather. For example, lightweight and light colored clothing in hot and humid conditions.
  • Parents should make sure each child arrives at his or her activity fully hydrated.
  • Coaches should make sure there are “drink pauses” every 15-20 minutes even if a child is not thirsty. Move practices inside or to shady areas during hot and humid conditions.
  • The best hydration source for everyone is water. Use sports drinks during hot and humid conditions and during intense exercise of prolonged duration (greater than 90 minutes).
  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers hydration guidelines such as drinking 2-3 cups of water before exercise or an athletic event, 1-2 cups of fluid during the event, and drinking 3-4 cups of water after the event. This is just a guideline.  Hydration levels depend on each individual child and other factors such as a child’s age and activity level and weather conditions.

Get more recommendations and information from the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on heat illness.

Last Updated 04/2012