At everactiv we know that nutrition is important not only for health but also for performance. We’ve asked sports nutrition expert Rebecca Burns to give us some advice for active youngsters.
When we exercise, our bodies lose fluid and although it may not be possible to prevent dehydration, it is important to ensure that we minimise this risk during activity.
The volume of fluid that a person needs depends on a number of factors including age, gender, type of physical activity and environmental conditions. In general, kids should be aiming for about 6-8 glasses of fluid per day (e.g. 120–150 ml serving for younger kids and 250-300ml for older). However, this is only an estimate! The easiest way to monitor hydration is by keeping track of the colour of your urine. This does sound a bit peculiar, but I often find that with kids it can be quite a fun thing to encourage them to do! Use the hydration chart below as a guide. I tell people that what they need to aim for is straw or pale yellow pee (colours 1-3), this means that they are hydrated. When you get into the darker colours (4-8) it means that you are dehydrated and need to drink more.
Water is best - but we all know that not everyone likes plain water so, for some, a good option is low sugar or no added sugar squash. You can also jazz up water by adding things like berries, mint leaves, citrus fruit slices, cucumbers or melon. Get creative to come up with your own fun flavor combinations.
In general kids don’t need sports drinks. They should be able to rehydrate adequately through water alongside a balanced diet. Sports drinks should only be used when undertaking prolonged intense exercise when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and electrolytes (e.g. sodium).
However, even at this time sports drinks that contain caffeine and guarana should be avoided for kids as they have been associated with adverse health effects. If you do decide to give your kids sports drinks you should bear in mind that they tend to contain high amounts of sugar. For example:
- Lucozade Sport contains 32g carbohydrate per bottle however, 18g of this is sugar (4 ½ teaspoons of sugar).
- Powerade contains 20g carbohydrate per bottle, 20g of this is sugar (5 tsp of sugar).
- Lucozade Energy contains 58g carbohydrate per bottle, 48g of this is sugar (12 tsp of sugar).
A great option is to mix one part fresh fruit juice with three parts water. And, low fat milk is the perfect post-exercise drink containing protein, carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin D.
Get into the habit of taking a water bottle to school and training and drink regularly, even when you are not thirsty. This will prevent dehydration and can even have the added benefit of improving concentration levels. Keep an eye on the colour of your pee, it will keep you on top of your hydration levels and perform to your very best.
Rebecca Burns is a registered Dietitian and has a Masters in Sport and Exercise Nutrition. She competes in middle-distance running for Edinburgh AC. She is available for private consultations at The Physiotherapy Clinics, South Gyle, Edinburgh. You can contact Rebecca at: Burns_SportsRD@gmail.com
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