Q. I’m the coach of both a youth football team and a youth baseball team. in the summer, I’ve have noticed that the kids ask for water breaks during baseball more often than in the fall. Since the weather is typically cooler in the fall, should I schedule fewer water breaks or should I give the football players the same drinking opportunities as the kids in the summer?
ANSWER: Yes, you should indeed schedule as many water breaks! For youth football players, the weather can become tropical inside their uniforms. They can sweat a lot, even if the weather feels cool for the coaches and parents. Yet, because the weather is cool, the kids may not think to drink as often.
If the kids become dehydrated, they will be cranky, tired, and have less fun. One goal of youth sports is to have FUN! So please do offer your team frequent drinking opportunities. You can use the breaks as a time to educate the kids about the importance of staying well hydrated so they feel better and prevent needless fatigue.
As for what to drink, water is generally fine for youth sports. As long as they have had a pre-practice snack, they will have the energy they need to perform well and will not need sugar-based sports drinks.They will not be sweating enough to require the little bit of sodium (electrolyte) that is in a sports drink. Sports drinks are designed to be takenduring endurance exercise that lasts for more than 1.5 hours, such as marathons; sports drinks generally are not essential for youth sports.
While many kids enjoy sports drinks before, during and after practices and games, I’d encourage wholesome foods before exercise (banana,bagel, orange, graham crackers), water during (or water fruit such as watermelon chunks or orange slices if they seem low on energy), and chocolate milk afterwards (if the kids will not be eating a meal soon thereafter). Chocolate milk for recovery contains both carbs to refuel the muscles, as well as protein to build and repair muscles – as well as calcium for growing bones. While the kids should not be training to the point of becoming depleted at which point they would really need a recovery drink, teaching them about optimal sports nutrition practices will invest in their future athletic career when sports becomes more intense.
I like to stop at a convenience store during my long runs and buy a cola. Everyone else is drinking water or sports drink. They give me a hard time for drinking soda. Is there anything wrong with drinking cola on long runs?
Soda is sugar water .. . just like a sports drink. To make soda into a sports drink, dilute it in half with water and add a dash of salt (or munch on a few pretzels alongside the soda). The sodium (salt) enhances fluid retention.
Soda such as cola offers 100 calories per 8 ounces; Gatorade offers about 50 calories per 8 ounces. Both have few nutritional merits. Because a sports drink is more dilute than cola, it is easier to absorb and will empty quicker from the stomach. Hence, during intense runs, or in hot weather, when rapid fluid absorption is important, you might want to drink water alongside the cola to dilute it.
The caffeine in cola may be one reason you prefer it over a sports drink. Caffeine, particularly in combination with carbohydrates (i.e.,the sugar in soft drinks), is known to enhance performance. Although once thought to have a dehydrating effect, we now know that it not true.
As long as the cola settles well, without creating belching or stomach aches, you have my blessing to enjoy it during extended exercise. It is just one way to consume the 200 to 300 calories from carbohydrates you need per hour of running. The cola will help you maintain high energy and enjoyment of the run.
Granted, a wholesome breakfast or healthier pre-run snack to fuel the first hour is nutritionally preferable to relying on sugar-water. But during extended exercise, sugar in any form will help keep you from hitting the wall. The guidelines are to limit your sugar intake to 10% of your calories. That's 200 to 300 sugar-calories per day .... that means, one soda during a long run is OK but four sodas for meals and snacks is another story.
What to eat or drink after a long run is a hot topic among runners. What you do or don’t consume can effect how you feel later in the day, as well as at your next workout.
After a long run, your biggest priority should be to replace fluids lost from sweat. Hopefully you drank some water or sports drink on your run, but you will still need to replace some fluid. The best way to determine how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after your run (without clothes). For every pound lost, drink at least 16 oz of water; better yet, 24 ounces. At this point, there is little need for sports drinks, as long as you’re planning to eat something shortly. Your next meal or snack will replenish the lost sodium and glucose. However, sports drinks can be a good option if your stomach isn’t ready for food. Chicken broth, cola, or gingerale are other popular options that may help settle a queasy stomach.
Remember to continue to drink fluids throughout the day to continue to stay hydrated. You can monitor your hydration by the color and amount of your urine. When properly hydrated your urine will be a pale yellow (unless you take supplements, in which case, the color may be brighter), and you will urinate every 2-3 hours.
In addition to properly hydrating, you will want to eat shortly after a long run to replenish your glycogen stores. Make sure this meal or snack is a mix of carbohydrates (to refuel) with a little protein (to repair). While many runners strive for a ratio of 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 carbohydrates to protein, the exact ratio isn’t mandatory. Just be sure you fill-up with more carbs than protein. That is, don't have just a protein shake!
Some easy to prepare carb-protein recovery meals include:
- Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk
- Turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit
- Yogurt with berries and granola
- Bowl of beany soup such a minestrone, with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
- Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and slivered almonds
- Peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich
- Vegetable omelet with toast
If you aren’t ready for a meal after your run, make a small snack such as a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal with milk, or an apple with peanut butter.
Rapidly refueling by eating immediately after a run is most important for people who will be running again in the next 4 to 6 hours. Most of us can simply eat within an hour after running and will recover well. Yet, a benefit to eating shortly after your run is to keep the cookie monster from showing up!
Even if your stomach doesn’t feel hungry post-run, your muscles want fuel. Feed them! Signs of hunger include irritability and fatigue. Eating even just a small snack post-run and then your meal a few hours later can keep you from becoming ravenous and overeating later in the day. You will also likely feel more energized and recover faster.
Now that the weather is cooler, many athletes are ramping up their training for Fall endurance events such as a marathon, century bike ride,or tennis tournament. If you feel confused about how to maintain energy during extended exercise, use this handy guide as a tool to figure out your target intake. Because each person’s body responds differently to food during exercise, experiment during training, observe the benefits (or costs), and tweak accordingly!
A pre-exercise meal (oatmeal) or snack (banana) will do the job to keep you adequately fueled during the workout
Exercise 1-2.5 hours
30 to 60 grams carb/hour
Consume 120 to 240 calories of carbs in the form of sports drinks, gummy candy, gels, dried pineapple, banana, and other commercial or standard foods
Exercise >2.5 hours
60 to 90 grams carb/hour
For long events like an 100 mile bike ride, Ironman triathlon, or trail run, target 240 to 360 calories per hour from a variety of carbohydrates, including fruit, chocolate bars, and cookies, as tolerated.
To avoid “flavor fatigue”, include not only sugary sweets (sports drinks, candies and gels) but also peanut butter and honey sandwiches, beef jerky, granola bars, chicken broth, cheese sticks, and other foods that offer savory and salty flavors. Be sure to experiment during training to figure out what you can tolerate!
Fuel wisely and have fun. There's no need to hit the wall!