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SF 0019: Practice Hydration…So Important!

Practice Hydration…So Important!


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The Question:

What should my athlete be drinking during practice?

The Answer:

All right! Welcome back to the Stay Fueled Podcast! My name is Dr. Joshua Eldridge, the founder of Stay Fueled. We’re up to Episode 19. Episode 19; very exciting! Today, we have a question from Andrea. “What should my athlete be drinking during practice?”

Andrea, that’s a rock star question because practice hydration is critically important for athletes. Now, what most studies say is that mature athletes need 16 fluid ounces of hydration every hour during practice. That’s a lot of fluid, but they just continually drink. Your athlete needs to make sure that they have a water bottle at practice.

I work with young athletes as well. So 50 to 60 pounders. And they don’t need 16 fluid ounces. They’d float away. So somewhere between 10 and 12 fluid ounces for them. And then, we can scale it up until we get to those mature athletes who are up around 16 fluid ounces an hour.

The other thing that comes into play is carbohydrate drinks. I think that athletes should be utilizing carbohydrate drinks, and especially those athletes involved in intermittent sports. So football would be an intermittent sport. Gymnastics would be an intermittent sport. Baseball. Basketball to some extent. Soccer to some extent. So we utilize carbohydrate drinks.

Now what studies have shown is that a 6% carbohydrate drink is the optimal level of carbohydrates, or sugar is another way to say carbohydrates. Six percent is the optimal amount that we need.

So what I tell parents is that there’s a few options for this. Number one is you can create your own carbohydrate drink. Fruit juices are at about 12% to 13% carbohydrate drinks. When we take one part water, one part juice, we now break that percentage down to around 6%, which is the optimal amount.

So a great example of this, take a gallon of water, a gallon of apple juice. Mix them together with a teaspoon of salt. And you have your all natural carbohydrate drink. And that’s the best way probably to go.

The second option, which is actually right there with the first option, and one study showed that athletes actually do better with this, is coconut water. But coconut water, you got to add a little salt to it. So coconut water with an additional amount of salt was actually shown to hydrate the best and give the most energy during practice. So you’ve got the all natural carbohydrate drink, you’ve got the coconut water with a little salt added. And then of course, you have your Gatorades and Powerades which come behind the first two. But those were engineered to have 6% carbohydrate drink because that’s been found to be the best amount. So they just engineered it that way.

Having a carbohydrate drink can increase an athlete’s ability to do work by 33%. 33% is a ton of extra ability to do work. So you’re just pretty much giving them extra energy for the practice.

Now I work with a lot of gymnasts. One of the things that we see is they have a four hour practice and a lot of them are young. A lot of your younger athletes won’t be able to handle a carbohydrate drink – 16 fluid ounces or 12 fluid ounces – for four hours. It’s going to give a tummy ache, they’re not going to feel good. So what a lot of these athletes do is they switch it up. So they’ll have water and then a carbohydrate drink. And for our gymnasts, they go four hours. So the first hour, they’ll do water. Second hour, carbohydrate. Third, water. Fourth, carbohydrate.

If you have a football player, that’s something where maybe the first little bit of practice, they’ll drink water. As they get a little tired, they drink some carbohydrate drink. Then they go back to water, carbohydrate drink. They just mix it up. And it’s a little bit of an experiment with your young athlete because everybody is different and each one responds differently to this type of nutrition.

But the one thing is clear, they have to get hydration during practice. If they’re going to practice and they’re only getting breaks every half hour, uh-uh. They’re not going to perform the way that their bodies were intended tothe way that their bodies were intended to. You’re setting your athlete up for injury. So give them frequent hydration breaks.

And this is for the coaches. If you have a coach that needs to listen to this, send them to the podcast. Your athlete needs frequent hydration breaks every 5 or 10 minutes. They need to be sipping. Allow your athlete to carry that water bottle around with them and always sip, sip, sip of water or a carbohydrate drink, or mix it up so that they can still get the energy from the carbohydrate drink, but they don’t get their tummy that gets irritated.

So that’s our hydration for during practice. Andrea, thank you so much for leaving that question for us. If you have a question for us, head on over to On the right hand side, there’s a place where you can leave us a voicemail. And I’ll be excited to feature it right here on the Stay Fueled Podcast and get that question answered for you.

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Thank you again for joining us for the Stay Fueled Podcast. My name is Dr. Joshua Eldridge and we’re going to see you next time. Have an awesome day!.