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Athletes Get Your Drink On | August 26, 2009

As students return to school this week, so starts the kick off of after school sports programs. To help your child maintain peak performance during sports activities, be sure they drink fluids by having access to healthful drinks. Drinking fluids regulates body temperature, replaces fluids lost through sweat, and minimizes the potential for illness. If athletes become dehydrated they can’t cool down, they may feel tired, or sick to their stomach. To keep children hydrated, they should be offered healthful drinks before, during, and after exercise.

Sweat contains water, along with three minerals known as electrolytes: sodium, chloride and potassium. Electrolytes have many functions in the body to include maintaining water balance, helping your muscles contract and relax, and helping transmit nerve impulses. Most young athletes can replace the small amounts of sodium from sweating through a normal diet. Endurance athletes, who sweat much more, and for longer periods, may need to replace electrolytes through sports drinks.

So, what is best to drink? For events lasting less than an hour, drink water. Water is absorbed more rapidly than any other liquid. For events lasting more than an hour, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends replenishing carbohydrates by drinking sports drinks with carbohydrate concentrations of 4-8%. The main nutritional elements in a commercial or homemade sports drink are water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Here are a few brands that meet that criteria: Accelerade, Amino Vital RTD, Cytomax, Gatorade, Gatorade Endurance Formula, GU2O, GPUSH,Powerade, Powerade Advance, Powerade Option, Proper Fitness Water and SoBe Sports System. The best time to drink sports drinks is during exercise. Drinking a high-sugar drink prior to exercise (like some high sugar energy drinks or soda) can cause hypoglycemia in the middle of the game. Soda can cause bloating due to the carbonation. The general rule is to sip 6-8 ounces of fluid for every 30 minutes of strenuous exercise.

For post exercise, chocolate milk is an effective recovery drink. Not only does it offer water but a whole lot more—carbs, electrolytes and protein. There have been many studies recently demonstrating superior muscle recovery and lower levels of creatine kinase—an indicator of muscle damage, in athletes who used lowfat chocolate milk versus carbohydrate beverages.

Don’t wait until you are thirsty, that’s too late, you are already dehydrated. The most important nutritional advice for athletes is to drink, drink, drink!