Water has many important roles in the body and is required to maintain blood volume and regulate body temperature. It is the drink of choice for health and sports performance benefits, especially for children and adolescents participating in junior sport.
Sweat production (fluid loss) increases with increasing temperature and humidity, as well as with an increase in the exercise intensity. If not replaced, fluid loss can lead to dehydration which may contribute to an increased perception of how hard an activity feels, along with mental fatigue that can impact kids’ concentration. Dehydration can also increase the risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and other gastro-intestinal problems during and after sport.
Drinking fluid during junior sport matches is necessary to replace the fluid lost through sweat and the amount of fluid consumed should reflect the amount of fluid lost through sweat. In junior sport, water is the best choice to keep the body cool, replace fluid lost through sweat, and help kids feel energised to play at their best.
Sports drinks aren’t a healthy choice for kids
A standard 600ml sports drink has around nine teaspoons of sugar – that’s one and half times the recommended daily limit for added sugar. The sugar in sports drinks can erode dental enamel causing tooth decay and contribute to excess kilojoules in kids’ diets, which can lead to health problems.
Even in very hot and/or humid conditions or periods of sustained high intensity exercise where extra hydration, electrolyte and carbohydrates are required, additional drinks of water and small snacks (e.g. cheese and crackers, banana, a sandwich, yoghurt or milk drink) will replace fluid and salt losses from sweat and provide the extra energy kids need to perform at their best.
How to keep kids well hydrated during junior sport
- Get ready before you start
Head to the starting line or sporting ground well hydrated. Drink plenty of water (NHMRC guidelines recommend approximately 5–8 cups of fluid per day) and enjoy a healthy breakfast or snack before play starts.
- Top up on the go
When kids take a break, top up their fluid with sips of water so they’re refreshed and ready to play on. In hot and humid weather, juniors may need to stop more regularly to top up.
- Finish and replenish
Finish with water and a healthy snack to replenish kids’ energy after they play.