Keys to Hydrating the High School Athlete

September 16, 2021

When it comes to success in athletic endeavors, there are so many important pieces to the puzzle. Often overlooked, especially when it comes to high school athletes, is the importance of fueling and hydrating properly. Performance hydration can make or break an athlete.

When you’re dehydrated, even by as little as 2-3%, your body is not able to perform the same or give the optimal output that it can when it is fully hydrated. When it comes to high school athletes, hydration status can be even more important. Studies have shown that dehydration levels of just 1% negatively affected endurance performance in boys aged 10-12 years old. Whether you’re trying to win a XC race, run to catch a touchdown, sprint down the basketball court for a layup, or swim faster than your opponents in the 100 yard freestyle, being properly hydrated matters.

How to Know if You’re Properly Hydrated

  • Check urine daily to monitor hydration status
    • Tea colored (dark yellow/brown) urine = dehydration
    • Light lemonade colored (pale yellow) urine = proper hydration
  • Weigh in before and after practice to determine how much water you lose

Tips to Ensure Proper Hydration Status

  • Carry a water bottle around school with you throughout the day
  • Drink on a schedule (*see Hydration Timing below)
  • Avoid the following beverages:
    • Caffeinated beverages (coffee, cola, tea) – act as diuretics
    • Fluids with a glucose concentration above 6% (fruit juices, sodas) – don’t allow body to absorb fluid well
    • Alcoholic beverages – cause dehydration and early fatigue (and are illegal for high schoolers)
  • Consume adequate amount of fruits and vegetables – they are loaded with water (as well as vitamins and minerals!)

Hydration Timing

Knowing when to drink before, during, and after an event is important.  Below, I have listed some generalized recommendations which serve as a good starting point to help a high school athlete avoid dehydration. Since all athletes and sports are different, it can be helpful to work with a registered dietitian to really individualize the recommendations for optimal performance.  Also imperative is making sure that an athlete experiments with the hydration schedule during practice.

BEFORE exercise2-3 hours before: 16 ounces
15 minutes before:  8 ounces
DURING exerciseEvery 15-20 mins: 4 ounces (2-3 large gulps)
AFTER exercise16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost

Consequences of Dehydration

As I noted earlier, performance declines with every little decrease in body weight from water loss. In addition, there are several other possible negative outcomes of dehydration:

  • Increase in core temperature and heart rate
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramping
  • Disorientation
  • Headache
  • Fatigue/Lethargy

Takeaway Tip:  Keep it Hydrated!

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