Nutrition for Aquatic Athletes
A practical guide to eating for health and performance
THE IMPORTANCE OF HYDRATION IN SPORT
by Sinead Bradbury Nutrition & Health Clinic
BBS, NT Dip, mIANT
Preventing dehydration is of utmost importance in young athletes as their bodies are not fully adapted to handle the increases in core temperature efficiently. School schedules are very busy and as you are aware life can be hectic for families of busy young athletes. In a sporting context dehydration impairs reaction time, judgment, concentration and decision making – all vital elements of performance. Dehydration also impairs muscle endurance and can lead to injury.
How to Avoid Dehydration
▪ All young athletes should start upon rising regardless whether they are training or not. A young athlete needs to be hydrated on all days not just training days. Avoiding dehydration is a habit every successful athlete has mastered.
▪ Avoid Hydration robbers ie salty foods, caffeine.
▪ Ensure that young athletes are allowed to drink fluids during class. Some schools prohibit this but swimmers training more than 10 hours a week should be exempt from this rule.
▪ Eat their water! The body can be hydrated with foods as well as fluidsl Fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, tomatoes, celery, melon, pineapples, oranges contain nearly 90% water and should be consumed regularly.
▪ If they are hydrating regularly young athletes should be urinating every 2-3 hours. Teach them that pale, yellow colour reflects a more hydrated status than a darker apple juice colour.
▪ Again parents & coaches should constantly be reinforcing the importance of hydration with regular breaks being incorporated into schedules for re hydrating and urinating (ie long trips on buses)
▪ Sipping fluids puts the least pressure on the bladder so avoid drinking too much at one sitting. Also drinking too much at meal time can dilute digestive enzymes in the mouth and impair digestion. An effective digestive system means the body can utilise energy from food more efficiently.
▪ Aim for a minimum of 2 litres per day EVERY day. Do not wait until you are thirsty, if you do you are already dehydrated.
General Guidelines for Fluid Needs During Exercise While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most young athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point, and modify their fluid needs accordingly.
Hydration Before Exercise
▪ Drink about 400 – 600 ml, 2-3 hours before exercise
▪ Drink 250 -300ml 10-15 min before exercise
Hydration During Exercise
▪ Sip on water where possible during training sessions/gala days
▪ If exercising longer than 90 minutes drink water diluted 50% with fruit juice of your choice. There is no need for isotonic or sugary drinks for a growing athlete. I would recommend isotonic drinks only if young athlete finds it very difficult to eat before competition.
Hydration After Exercise
▪ Post Exercise Hydration is vital. Continue to sip on water/diluted fruit juice for up to 2 hours post exercise.