Tuesday, July 31, 2007

JT's Blog - What Athletes Should be Drinking - July 31

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

I spent time in Indianapolis, Indiana, working with the Director of Coaching for Indiana, Vince Ganzberg. I was invited to assist him with training Under-9 in their new academy. I also had an opportunity to speak to the club to DOC’s and club presidents and others. The weather was hot but the players seem to having a great time. But the heat reminded me of an article I read some time ago but I believe is still great information for coaches today. The article was written by Amanda C. Livingston, of the National Center for Sports Safety, she discussed what athletes and coaches should understand about hydration.

Since every athlete would rather spend more time in competition rather than sitting on the sidelines, it's important to consider the kind of fluid used for fluid replacement.

The winning formula for athletes includes drinking fluids that have: carbohydrates, electrolytes, flavor, and a cool temperature. When athletes are exercising and sweaty, water is OK, but it just isn't enough.

There are several reasons why sports drinks are better than water for exercising athletes: water doesn't have the performance benefits, lacks flavor, "turns off" thirst too soon, and doesn't have electrolytes.

What is it about a sports drink that fuels performance? Carbohydrates are the key ingredient because they supply energy for working muscles. Carbohydrates also improve taste, stimulate fluid absorption and enhance athletic performance. It is important to make sure that the drink has an amount of carbohydrates that does not slow fluid delivery.

Electrolytes (minerals such as sodium) are essential in helping athletes avoid dehydration. Having electrolytes in sports drinks provides a number of benefits to athletes such as to encourage drinking, replacing electrolytes lost in sweat, and helping to maintain fluid balance.

Sodium is the main electrolyte lost through sweat, but it doesn't take a lot of sodium to make a sports drink effective. Sports drinks are formulated to replace the small amount of potassium that is also lost through sweat.

Research shows that athletes prefer a beverage that is likely sweetened and lightly flavored when they exercise or get hot and thirsty. The carbohydrate, sodium, potassium and flavoring in sports drinks all encourage consumption and help athletes avoid dehydration.

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