This week, Nutrition and Dietetics Student Kieran Woodford takes us through the importance of hydration for young athletes and their recommended daily water intake.
According to Kieran, staying hydrated is essential for gymnasts as water plays a crucial role in maintaining blood volume and regulating body temperature.
When performing one of the many gymnastics movements, your body attempts to cool you down by sweating and in doing so, results in a loss of body fluid. If this is not replaced appropriately, it can lead to dehydration. As dehydration increases, exercise performance and mental performance gradually diminishes. It’s important that junior gymnasts are reminded more often in humid conditions and when their exercise intensifies to drink more water as this can lead to an increased fluid loss (sweat production). [1,3]
Signs of dehydration:
To prevent poor sports performance, mental fatigue, headaches, and other adverse health issues, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Dizziness or light-headedness;
- Dark yellow or brown urine;
- Dry lips, tongue, mouth or throat. 
Children tend to not be able to regulate their body temperature as good as adults. This means they are more susceptible to becoming overheated and dehydrated during exercise. Forming good hydration practices early on in their sporting careers is always a good idea!
- Always start your exercise hydrated to lower the risk of becoming dehydrated during exercise. 
- Kids should drink water before physical activity and every 15 to 20 minutes. They also should drink water afterwards to restore fluid lost through sweat. 
- Water is the best choice for hydration for most young athletes. Steer clear of carbonated drinks (soft drinks) before, during and immediately after exercise, as these drinks can upset the stomach and reduce the desire to drink. 
- Young athletes can't rely on thirst to tell if they're getting dehydrated. Thirst is a sign that their body has needed liquids for a while and may already be experiencing minor dehydration. [1,3]
Can you drink too much?
When it comes to fluids, dehydration is one of the most common issues among athletes. In cool weather or when the exercise intensity is low, sweat losses may be smaller meaning fluid requirements will be lower. [1,2]
If your child is continually going to the bathroom and has clear urine, they may need to reduce their fluid intake. Drinking more fluid than required has the potential to interfere with sports performance, health and also may result in over-hydration (hyponatraemia). It is important to note though that this is extremely rare!
Individual fluids needs
The amount of fluid depends on many factors and individual needs. It may vary from one day to the next depending on greater volume or intensity of exercise, environmental conditions, or if they are naturally a heavy sweater. [1,2] Additionally, be prepared to compensate for extra losses if your child is sweating more than usual during exercise!
According to Health Direct, the recommended daily intake of water for children is:
- 5 glasses (approx. 1L) for 5-8 years old
- 7 glasses (approx. 1.5L) for 9-12 years old
- 8 to 10 glasses (2L) for 13 years old and over
Note these are merely approximations and may vary, use the pee chart below to assess if they are drinking enough water.
The Pee Chart: What the colour of your urine says about your hydration. The ideal pee colour you should aim for should fall somewhere between colourless and the colour of light straw (pale yellow) and honey.  It’s important to drink plenty of water every day to stay healthy.
- Junior Gymnast - Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) [Internet]. Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). 2022 [cited 8 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/across-the-lifespan/junior-gymnast/
- Fluids in Sport - Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) [Internet]. Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). 2022 [cited 8 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/fluids-in-sport/
- Urine colour chart [Internet]. Healthdirect.gov.au. 2022 [cited 8 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/urine-colour-chart
- Hydration tips for children [Internet]. Healthdirect.gov.au. 2022 [cited 8 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.