Young athletes may not think dehydration will ever happen to them, but it can—and if it does, parents, coaches and athletes better know what to do about it. Here are the key steps:

1) Know your sweat rate
Staying properly hydrated is all about maintaining your body’s fluid balance so there’s never too much or too little. Athletes need to know how much they sweat and how much they need to drink to replace it:

  • Weigh-in before and after competition
  • Keep track of how much fluid is consumed during a workout
  • Add the amount of weight lost after exercise with the amount of fluid consumed to know how much they should drink to stay hydrated.

Also, check urine color. If a pale yellow like lemonade then they are likely pretty well hydrated. If their urine is dark yellow like apple juice then they are likely dehydrated. This is an easy and accurate way to assess hydration status.

2. Hydrate before, during and after workouts
Proper hydration will help you perform at your best and protect you from feeling dehydration’s serious side effects.

  • Before gives you a head start to help you compete at your best.
  • During gives you the energy to keep going.
  • After helps you replace the fluids and electrolytes—or the minerals your body loses in sweat, like sodium, potassium and chloride—that are vital to your body’s recovery.

3. Choose the right beverage
Water is the best source of hydration, however, research shows a properly formulated sports drink is best when you have been sweating for more than an hour. That’s because it has:

  • Electrolytes to replace what you lose in sweat.
  • Flavor to encourage you to drink.
  • Carbohydrates to give energy to your working muscles.

Children should avoid fruit juices, carbonated beverages, caffeinated beverages and energy drinks immediately before and during activity.

  • Fruit juices can slow fluid absorption and cause upset stomach, may also lack sodium.
  • Carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks, during the active occasion can reduce voluntary drinking due to stomach fullness and throat burn when gulping and lack sodium.
  • Energy drinks should be avoided because many contain caffeine and have high carbohydrate concentrations, which slows the emptying of fluids from the stomach.

4. Speak up if you feel ill
Suffering in silence when feeling the early signs of dehydration can be dangerous. Instead, athletes should be encouraged to tell coaches or teammates how they’re feeling so they can get the rest, fluid and medical attention they might need.

Finally, talk to a doctor if you have additional questions about proper hydration. The health and success of your kids may depend on it.