Hydration For Active Kids FAQ

What you drink is as vital as what you eat.  Drinking the right beverage will help your child to excel in their activity.  Children sweat less than adults and have a poor sense of thirst.  They can easily dehydrate and over-heat. They need to be reminded to drink up during activity.  Your child will need to hydrate more in hot weather or when wearing heavy equipment. 

What's the best drink for active kids? 

Water, water, water.  Water is not only important for hydration but it is also needed by the body to:

  • Carry nutrients and oxygen to working muscles,
  • Remove toxins and waste products,
  • Keep joints moving well,
  • Regulate body temperature , and
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and heart rate.

Plain water is best, for everyone and especially for young children.  Water is best for activities lasting less than 90 minutes at a light to moderate intensity, (you can still talk through the activity and you have a raised heart rate). At greater intensity, (you can only say a few words without pausing for a breath and your heart rate has gone up quite a lot), water is still the best beverage for activities for 60 minutes of activity. 

Why are other types of drinks not ideal for active kids? 

Other drinks such as sports drinks, fruit juice or fruit beverages, pop or other carbonated drinks, energy drinks and caffeinated drinks are not ideal choices for children. Highly sweetened drinks may not be absorbed as well. They may also cause upset stomach.  If you are concerned with maintaining your child's level of energy, a regular healthy diet will provide the nutrients required to fuel the body for recreational sport or activity lasting 90 minutes or less.  Adding a small snack and drinking water before the event will also have the same effect as a sport drink. This will give your child fuel and hydration.

How much water should my child drink before and during activity?

The simple answer is to drink water and to drink it often. Follow these guidelines to help prevent dehydration drinking water at the following times helps prevent dehydration:

  • Drink 1-2 cups (250-500 ml) of water 2-3 hours before the activity.
  • During the activity, promote drinking ½ cup (125 ml) of water every 15-20 minutes.
  • After the activity, continue to drink regularly as exercise may dull the sensation of thirst.
  • Check the colour of your urine! A dark coloured urine means you are still dehydrated. A light pale coloured urine means you are well hydrated.
  • Promote drinking water throughout the day, even when not in active play.
What are some tips for my child to stay hydrated all day? 

  • Kids may drink more when it is flavoured water. Add frozen berries, slices of lemon, orange, cucumber or fresh herbs such as mint to the water bottle to give it flavour without the added sugar.
  • Enjoy vegetables and fruits high in water such as cucumber, celery, watermelon, oranges, grapes, before and after the event. These are also great snacks to have during the day.
  • Don't forget to drink on cold days when taking part in winter outdoor activities or in an ice arena.
  • Young swimmers also need to rehydrate. You may not see the sweat, but they do lose water in pool activities.
  • Carry a re-usable water bottle and label it with your child's name to prevent sharing.
When do you need more than water? 

Sports drinks should only be for the more active and intense athletes. Young children or recreational athletes (regardless of the age) should not rely on a sports drink. Sports Drinks only add sugar to the diet if not used for sport.  Pay attention to your eating and hydration habits. Having a healthy and balanced diet and proper hydration with water will be far more effective to bring out the athlete in you!

Two ingredients your body uses during activity are carbohydrates and electrolytes. Your body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in your muscles for energy. This stored energy helps your body to keep going during activity.  Electrolytes are minerals in your body that help your muscles to work properly. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. This is why your sweat has a salty taste. The longer the activity and the more intense the activity, the more you will draw on your stores of energy and electrolytes. This is when a sports drink may be handy. Examples include:

  • When you are active for longer than 90 minutes without stopping.
  • If you are active at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more.
  • You are active in extreme heat.
  • When you are playing many events in the same day.

Don't just rely on a sports drink. Drinking water regularly and eating a healthy diet will help your body to store carbohydrates (sugar) and give you electrolytes so your muscles work at their best. Carbohydrates and electrolytes are found in the food we eat.

What should I look for when buying a sports drink? 

When looking for a sport drink, look for one without carbonation. You also want one with 4-8% or 40-80 g/litre of carbohydrate. This information can be found on the nutrition label and the ingredient list. You do not need to have a drink with amino acids or herbal ingredients.  Make sure you try out the sport drink during training and not at a game or competition.  You may find that the taste does not work you or that it causes you an upset stomach. You should also drink water during activity and not only sports drinks. 

Check the healthy snacks main page for more great content. 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian? 

Call Health Connect Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

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