Sunday, June 22, 2014

How to Keep Your Young Athletes Hydrated

I'm the most unathletic spaz on the planet (and possibly other planets too.) My kids, however are all athletic. I've spent many a day (and many a dollar) supporting my kids' interests in sports. I really don't think I can even count all the hours I've spent watching baseball, softball, football, cheer, hockey, swim, water polo, and gymnastics. Another unfathomable thing is the number of hours I've spent trying to get stains out of baseball pants and stink out of football and hockey pads, and my car!

When Gatorade invited me to learn more about their brand, I eagerly accepted since Gatorade is a staple in my house during sports seasons. I, along with 9 other bloggers, got to take a tour of IMG Academy here in sunny Sarasota. There's a Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) satellite branch at IMG. This place is an athlete's dream come true! Kids come from all over the world come to attend sports camp or to go to boarding school here. It's an incredible (and immense) facility! There were tents set up with Gatorade all over the campus. Athletes can refuel and hydrate anywhere, anytime. I learned a ton while I was there!

1.  I'm an idiot for not knowing that Gatorade was developed because an assistant coach at the University of Florida asked university physicians why his players were running out of steam on the field in the extreme Florida heat and humidity. The doctors determined the players were losing too much fluid and electrolytes through sweat, and were using up their stores of carbohydrates in the body. They developed the sports drink to replenish fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates. They named it Gatorade. You know, after the University of Florida Gators. Gators - Gatorade. Duh, how did I not know this?

2.  I am out of shape. Like seriously out of shape. After our workout with Vinnie the IMG trainer (half of which was spent lying on the artificial turf while clutching my chest and dramatically claiming, "This is the big one!" I realized I need to work out more regularly. For the following couple days, I literally cried every time I had to use the bathroom because my thigh muscles didn't want to perform the whole "sitting down" thing.

3.  I knew nothing about nutrition in general, and more specifically, the kind of nutrition my kids need before, during, and after games and practices. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here, judging by the halftime, and after-game snacks some parents bring to games. Pop, potato chips, candy, and cupcakes are pretty poor choices for fueling athletes, but I see kids eating them after games all the time.

There's so much information I'd like to share with you, but today I'm just going to focus on hydration. I'll write more about sports nutrition in the coming days. I hope this helps you to plan healthy meals, snacks, and drinks that will optimize your kids' performance and make them feel good instead of making them feel like falling over during a tough workout. I can't wait until football season to utilize my newfound knowledge on my own kids.

I think everyone knows that dehydration is bad. You want your kids to stay well-hydrated. But what should they drink and how much? When your kids are just hanging out at home, at school, playing outside, or having short (less than an hour) practices, they can stay hydrated with good old fashioned water. On a daily basis, water is perfect for keeping hydrated. Kids who are sitting around playing video games, for example, shouldn't be chugging Gatorade. They don't need the carbs or calories at that time.

When your kids are active, on the other hand, Gatorade is a better choice for hydrating. Why?

1.  Gatorade has sodium which your body needs. If you've ever had an IV at the hospital, then you know that they don't hang up a bag of Aquafina; they hang a bag of saline solution. If you have a really salty sweater, then you especially need to replenish the sodium they lose while sweating. I'm sure a few of you probably know what I'm talking about - you go to wash your son's uniform and it's got white stains all over it from the salt residue that's left behind after their sweat dries on it.

2.  Not only do their bodies need the sodium, but it will help drive thirst so your child drinks more.

3.  These are kids we're talking about here. The best form of hydration in the world does no good if they won't drink it. In general, kids prefer the flavors of Gatorade to plain water and will therefore drink more.

4.  Gatorade also contains carbs in the form of sugars that are fast-acting (as opposed to say slow-acting carbs like vegetables and whole grains which should be consumed daily, of course.) As your child's glycogen stores are depleted, the fast-acting carbs in Gatorade will give your child energy while they're performing. Have you ever seen a professional athlete eating a giant plate of pasta with veggies at halftime? (Michael Scott chowing down on fettucine alfredo immediately before his Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure doesn't count.) No, that doesn't happen. They sip on Gatorade or eat the Gatorade chews throughout the game to fuel their activity.

5.  Especially in hot weather, your kids will lose sweat quickly. When it's humid too, their sweat doesn't evaporate very well to cool their bodies so overheating becomes a serious problem. Replacing fluids and electrolytes is imperative.

So, put the Gatorade away when your kiddos are watching TV, playing, going to school, or doing everyday activities. They don't need it. Get the Gatorade out on game day, when they're at practice for an hour or more, if they're very salty sweaters, if their practice/game is taking place in heat/humidity, or if they ate lunch at 10:30, have practice immediately after school at 3:30 and don't have time for a meal before getting to the locker room. That's when they need the specialized hydration of a sports drink. Gatorade should be sipped throughout practices and games, not guzzled down all at once. (A tummy full of sloshing liquid can turn into vomit on the field.

For more information, visit Gatorade Moms HERE.


Sheri Thompson said...

I wish Gatorade left out food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and brominated vegetable oils. [All 3 not found in all versions, but still don't want my kids consuming any of those 3.] Gatorade gets an F rating at Fortunately, foodfacts offers healthier options with B and B- ratings.

Dawn said...

Funny you should mention food coloring. I asked them about that. Apparently they had a line of drinks without artificial coloring that didn't sell. They do offer some without artificial coloring currently though. The added sugars are there for a reason and when my kids are competing, I want them consuming those carbs for energy. Pepsico has removed BVO from Gatorade and is working on removing it from the rest of their products now actually.

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