Fundamental Youth Soccer

Healthy Halftime Snacks from MLS Works

Drink to Better Performance

by Amy J Reuter, MS, RD

Summer is a perfect time to prepare for the fall soccer season. It is also an ideal time for athletes to improve their nutrition by making smart beverage choices. Obtaining adequate amounts of nutrient-rich beverages will positively impact an athlete’s performance and health. The following fluid facts will assist athletes in choosing beverages wisely.

First and foremost, athletes need to drink to replenish fluid losses from sweat. As body temperature increases during exercise, sweat is produced. Body fluids are then lost as this sweat evaporates to cool the body.

Keep your youth soccer player hydratedIf fluid needs are not met, performance can suffer. Dehydration results in premature fatigue and increases the risk of heat illness. Inadequate fluid intake can result in sluggish performance, headaches, lethargy and moodiness. These symptoms may appear with a sweat loss of as little as 1% of body weight. A very low urine output and concentrated urine may indicate a lack of fluids. Tracking urine output is one way to monitor hydration status. An athlete can also determine sweat losses by checking weight before and after practice and drinking 2 cups of non-caffeinated fluid for every pound of weight lost.

Drinking adequate amounts of fluid is key to optimal hydration. Yet, the amount needed to replenish body fluids varies. Sedentary adults generally need 8 cups of fluid daily. Athletes training for 2 hours daily may lose an extra 8 cups of body fluid for a total daily loss of at least 16 cups or 1 gallon. Milk, water, fruit juices, sports drinks, fruit and soup all contribute to replenishing fluid stores.

Other beverages may inhibit hydration. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages since they increase fluid loss via thier diuretic effect. Carbonated beverages are also not recommended for hydration. The “bubbles” they contain may produce a burning feeling in the mouth preventing adequate intake. In addition the carbonation may give the athlete a bloated feeling during practice or competition.

Unfortunately, soda – the beverage consumed in the largest proportion by youths – lacks any nutrient value. Data from the most recent USDA Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) shows that almost one-fourth of adolescents drink more than 26 oz. of soft drinks per day. In addition, soft drink consumption is, in general, inversely associated with consumption of milk and fruit juice. Adolescents surveyed were replacing nutrient packed milk and fruit juices with nutrient deplete sodas. In take of nutrients concentrated in milk (calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A and phosphorus) and fruit juices (folate and vitamin C) also tended to be lower among youths in the highest soft drink consumption category compared with youths in the lower intake categories. Focusing on nutrient-rich beverages like milk and 100% fruit juices will better equip athletes for optimal performance.

  1. Consume a minimum of 12 cups of fluid (including fruits and soups) daily.
  2. Two hours before exercise, drink 17 oz. (about 2 cups) of fluid.
  3. During exercise, consume water at regular intervals (e.g., every 15-20 minutes) to replace sweat losses.
  4. After exercise, drink at least 16 oz. (2 cups) of fluid for every pound of body weight lost via sweat.
  5. Carry a sports bottle of water as a visual reminder to drink.
  6. Avoid carbonated beverages before exercising.
  7. Substitute milk or 100% fruit juices for soft drinks throughout the day.
  8. Try chocolate milk after practice replenish energy and nutrients.
  9. Try cool temperature fluids over warmer fluids for improved tolerance.
  10. If you drink coffee and colas or similar beverages, do so in moderation, especially prior to physical activity.

Amy Reuter’s column presented by the Washington Interscholastic Nutrition Forum (WINForum). Please visit them at

Keeping well hydrated is essential for peak performance. Dehydration impairs performance quickly and its effects can linger for several days. With a little planning, athletes can obtain adequate amounts of fluid. With the support and encouragement of teammates, coaches and parents, athletes can also improve their drink choices. Drinking a minimum of 12 cups of water, milk, 100% fruit or vegetable juices along with soups and fruits each day aids athletes in performing at their best. Here’s to improve performance and health with wise beverage choices … I think all athletes can drink to that!

Drinking for health and performance includes planning fluids into an athlete’s training diet. Thirst is a poor indicator of fluid needs because it lags behindthe body’s need for fluid. Encourage athletes to incorporate these top ten tips for optimal fueling into their daily routine: The beverages that athletes consume throughout the day can also contribute to an athlete’s nutrient intake. Milk is an ideal drik for athletes. Packed with calcium, protein and seven other nutrients, it is one of the most nutrient rich beverages. Other good vitamin sources are 100% fruit and vegetable juices.