A Quick Guide to Hydration and Electrolytes for Athletes of All Ages

Hi everyone. Many of you know that I started running marathons a few years ago. I've played sports my whole life and studied sports nutrition throughout my medical career, but nothing could ever prepare me for the marathon. Without good "fuel"(nutrition), hydration, and electrolytes, the marathon will chew you up and spit you out. 

Hydration and electrolytes are not only important for long distance running but just as important for any athletic activity, hike, bike ride, dance, you name it!  Without hydrating and replacing lost electrolytes it is impossible to perform at your peak. Here are a few easy tips that will keep you feeling great during your workouts and keep your kiddos and teens happy, feeling good, and performing at their best. 

1. Drink plenty of water every day not just "game day." Staying hydrated is super important. Water is best but milk or alternative milk also counts as your daily fluid intake. Caffeine will dehydrate you so keep tabs on your caffeine intake and discourage your kids/teens from drinking caffeine. A good rule of thumb is drinking enough water so your urine is like lemonade, not clear but not dark yellow.  Depending on your age and size, the basic recommendation for fluid intake just to maintain good health is 2-3 Quarts of water a day or 8 to 12 eight ounce glasses of water a day. 


2. While exercising make sure to drink 4-6 ounces of water every 20 minutes or so. If the work out is vigorous like sprinting or high exertion sports OR if it is very hot then increase to 6-8 ounces of water every 20 minutes.

3. Drink about 6-8 ounces of electrolyte drink for exercise longer than one hour OR in extreme heat. Try to avoid electrolyte drinks with artificial sweetener. Your body needs glucose or real sugar and salt to help it absorb water. Also, artificial sweeteners can harm your gut microbiome (the good bacteria in your intestines) and sometimes the artificial sweeteners (nutrasweet, stevia, splenda, etc) can cause bloating, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

4. My favorite electrolyte drinks are Skratch and Tailwind. You can find those at sporting and running stores or online. Gatorade or Powerade works for many people and is fine, but I would try to get the dye free version and avoid the G2, G0, or Powerade zero (you need the real sugar).

Hope this helps you stay hydrated and happy!!

Dr. P.


Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P.

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