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Beat the Heat: Keeping Your Athletes Healthy This Summer

July 22, 2014    5134 Views

By TJ Buchanan | @usltjbuchanan

Beat the Heat: Keeping Athletes Healthy

Hydration needs can vary from athlete to athlete based on factors such as environmental conditions, age of the athlete, and demands of various activities. It is important to know the warning signs of heat-related illness and dehydration, and how to prevent these conditions. Proper hydration is vital for optimal performance and recovery. All of the hard work and training will be for nothing if dehydration and heat illness kicks in and your athletes can't perform or recover properly. Prevention is the key. It is our job as coaches to educate our athletes on the warning signs of potential heat and hydration-related illness.

Thirst, irritability, headaches, weakness, dizziness, cramps, nausea, and decreased performance are all common signs of dehydration. Recognizing these basic signs of dehydration before, during, and after bouts of activity are important to prevent illness.

Hydration levels can be monitored by simple urine color measurements by the athlete. When optimally hydrated, urine color will appear clear or very lightly yellowed. As dehydration settles in, an athlete’s urine color will become dark yellow or even brown. The darker, more concentrated the urine appears the more the athlete is dehydrated.

Filling the Tank

To help ensure proper hydration, fluids should be consumed several hours before exercise or athletic events to allow for proper absorption. About two to three hours before exercise, athletes should drink 17-20 ounces of water. Then, again 10 to 20 minutes before exercise athletes should drink another 7-10 ounces of water.

Think of it like this: If you know you’re traveling on a long trip, you usually fill up the gas tank before you leave the house, and then maintain your fuel during the trip. The same theory applies to proper hydration. Demand that your athletes fill up before they need it and then maintain for the duration of the exercise.

How Much is Enough During Activity?

Athletes should drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes (or 28-40 ounces of water per hour of activity) and consume beyond their thirst. If they are feeling thirsty, they’re already dehydrated. It is important for an athlete to include these fluid replacement habits into their regular training to build up tolerance to this amount of water, as some athletes will have trouble consuming fluids during activity.


Individuals should drink approximately 20-24 ounces of water or sports drink per pound of weight loss within two hours of exercise or athletic events. Water is recommended for shorter bouts of normal exercise since it is unlikely that the body’s electrolyte stores have been depleted to a level where a sports drink in necessary. Sports drinks containing electrolytes, such as sodium or potassium, may be necessary after prolonged bouts of exercises.

The US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee is a source of lacrosse sport safety education for the entire lacrosse community. Check out other resources and review the committee’s take on nutrition, heat and hydration for a young athlete’s development and performance.

Nutrition, Heath & Hydration

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