East Jefferson General Hospital

Optimum Performance: Hydration all the more important during summer months
Written by Mackie Shilstone   

Now that summer is officially upon us, we Louisianans can usually expect heat waves that

will last until fall. Parents of young athletes, let me ask you a question: Are your children protected from the heat when on the field? I've already discussed the dangers the sun can bring in regards to skin protection, but let's evaluate its effects from an internal standpoint.

Studies show the body is made up of roughly 60 percent water, and it needs plenty of it to survive. The heat can compromise this survival by inducing dehydration, when the body loses more water than it is taking in, subsequently leading to hypohydration, a decrease in body water count. Recent findings witnessed that even when hydration sources were plentiful on the field, young athletes still suffered from the effects of hypohydration.

In fact, according to an article published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism evaluating dehydration levels in young soccer players, "roughly 90 percent of the players who began exercising under warm weather conditions were hypohydrated, and replenishing liquids did not have an effect on athletes who were already dehydrated," meaning players faced a cognitive and performance disadvantage.

In lab and field studies it was proven that "water losses greater than two percent of body weight significantly impaired endurance exercise and mental performance in hot environments." This research has never included young athletes, however, as up until recently most studies were used subjecting well-trained adults, some done under controlled conditions.

Researchers note that during a football camp evaluated for player's hydration levels, children both arrived on sight and remained hypohydrated throughout their stay. The same was found in young soccer players examined.

This means that players were not sufficiently hydrated at home, showing parents can unknowingly send their child into play with a drawback. Made aware of this fact, these players were given sufficient liquid intake. It was noted, "simple intervention plans enhanced hydration status in just under two days."

However, despite the fact that there was a 25 percent reduction in the prevalence of dehydration, a resounding 60 percent of players remained hypohydrated. What does this mean? "Drinking according to thirst did not lead to successful fluid replenishment," according to researchers. Urine samples of the players confirmed this, showing that 88.7 percent of them were hypohydrated.

So, how does a parent prevent their child from succumbing to dehydration? First, keep your young athlete hydrated before activity. Most children remained dehydrated because they were so before ever stepping foot on the field.

The Mayo Clinic suggests beginning hydration proceedings the night before strenuous exercise. To determine if one is adequately hydrated examine the urine. Clear, dilute urine means that person is sufficiently hydrated. Drink one to three cups of water before activity and make sure to replenish both during and after, as well. Be careful, however, because overconsumption of water does exist. Too much water can cause bloating and discomfort, and in extreme cases, a condition known as hyponatremia, when blood sodium is too low.

Consider eating your way to hydration. Fruits and vegetables as are great snacks to consume both before and after play, as they are high in water content. For example, watermelon contains a whopping 141 grams of water per cubed cup.

Interestingly enough, the same journal published reports indicating that "chicken-noodle soup ingested 45 minutes before exercise increased ad libitum (at one's pleasure) water intake during 90 minutes of steady-state exercise compared with an equal volume of water without concurrently raising total urine output." Remarkable.

Hydration should be taken seriously, and maintaining it should be a top priority for any parent regarding their child. Take head in warm weather, and note that medical attention should be sought, when dehydration becomes severe, inducing: bloody stool, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, irritability, or drowsiness.

In most cases an IV administered medically will help an individual regain proper hydration levels, but severe dehydration should not be taken lightly, as this condition could result in death if left untreated. Don't worry parents. Prevention is easy; it's just a matter of consistency.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He's the Executive Director of the Fitness Principle with Mackie Shilstone at East Jefferson General Hospital. Contact him at mackieshilstone.com.