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Nutrition for Young Athletes: Consuming Fluids July 30, 2007

This time of the year, many young Central Texas athletes are preparing to practice for organized sports they play. Because we can expect hot weather for several more months, both practice and games will stress young bodies. To help them stay healthy and maximize their performance, we asked Round Rock area family physician Norma E. Anderson, MD to provide some basic knowledge of sports nutrition for young athletes and their families. Her advice is divided into two essential parts: Hydration and diet. We will cover hydration this week followed by diet recommendations next week.

"Much of 'sports nutrition' is good nutrition for everyone - a healthy, balanced diet drawn from all of the food groups," says Dr. Anderson. "Still there are some special concerns that athletes and their families need to know about. This summary will touch first on a basic challenge: How to avoid dehydration."

Note: Much of the information regarding hydration and healthy weight-control practices is taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Promotion of Healthy Weight-Control Practices in Young Athletes.

Positive Hydration

"It is crucial for athletes to know what, how much and when to consume liquids, not only for maximal performance but also to avoid dangerous dehydration and even life-threatening heat stroke," advises Dr. Anderson. "To prevent and treat dehydration, athletes should drink fluids before, during and after activity." Here are her recommendations:

Risks of Dehydration

"Dehydration can impair performance as well as endanger health in young athletes," continues Dr. Anderson. Typical dehydration risks include:

"Dehydration of one percent (roughly one percent of body weight in fluid losses) is enough to decrease aerobic performance in children," adds Dr. Anderson. "Although studies of dehydration of greater than 1 percent have not been done in children for ethical reasons, we know from adult studies that a dehydration level of two to three percent can cause decreased reflexes, exercise capacity and muscle endurance, as well as problems regulating the body temperature.

"Further dehydration leads to more severe symptoms and the risk of heat stroke, a life-threatening condition in which the body cannot regulate its temperature. Temperature may rise to 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If an athlete does not sufficiently replenish fluid losses each day, dehydration can worsen cumulatively from day to day, even reaching a state of five to eight percent.

"When this happens over two or three days, it takes 48 hours for cells to replace the lost fluid. That's why it is important to make sure that young athletes replace their fluid deficit daily."

She also recommends using sports drinks, especially with younger children. "The added flavor and sodium encourage children to drink enough liquid to replace fluid losses completely, which they do not tend to do when given plain water."

Nutrition For Young Athletes: Fueling Up Before the Game

"We have a significant problem in the United States with lack of knowledge of proper nutrition for athletes," says Dr. Anderson. "For example, it is surprisingly common for them to use unhealthy methods to gain or lose weight. Not only can these choices be dangerous to health and growth, but they are counterproductive to maximal sports performance."

Next week Dr. Anderson discusses how to choose a healthy diet that includes proper amounts of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fats and other nutrients. She suggests the following Web sites for more information.



Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness, American Academy of Pediatrics. Promotion of Healthy Weight-Control Practices in Young Athletes, Pediatrics, 2005; 116; 1557-1564.

Cotugna, N, Vickerey, C., and McBee, S. Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes, The Journal of School Nursing, 2005; 6; 323-328.

Ray, T. and Fowler, R. Current Issues in Sports Nutrition in Athletes, Southern Medical Journal, 2004; 97; 863-866.

Norma E. Anderson, MD
Family Medicine
Sundance Family Health Center

Dr. Anderson is a family physician, board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She completed her Family Medicine residency in 1995 in Santa Rosa, California, at Community Hospital (later named Sutter Medical Center), affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco. She practiced in Cedar Rapids, Iowa until 1997, Rich Square and Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina until 1999, then in Mission, Texas until 2006.

Dr. Anderson enjoys the personal connection she makes with her patients and values the opportunity to take care of a great diversity of people, including all ages from newborns through senior citizens. She is interested in women's health issues and preventive healthcare.

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