As a follow up article for children and teens at the other end of the spectrum, this article is geared toward athletes doing competitive sports travel teams or week long sports camps. Here are several tips to keep your highly active kids moving, recovered, well-fueled, and hydrated over a busy summer. Take this seriously, because the number one thing we want to prevent is heat stroke. If you can rule that out with proper preparation, you can focus on athletic performance at optimal levels.
During the summer months, pre-teens and teenagers alike often find themselves competing on an entirely new level of activity. During the school year, these athletes typically workout a few times a week and maybe play a game or two per week. But in the summer months, the heat and intensity can often become overwhelming if kids are not properly hydrated, fueled, and physically prepared for 3-4 games in a day or a long weekend tournament. These challenging weeks or weekends come in the form of athletic summer camps, travel sports teams such as baseball, softball, soccer, and lacrosse to name a few. But there are also many week-long camps that have kids moving through the day, in the heat and humidity, with several practices for multiple days. And the further South you go for these sports camps, the more you have to prepare yourself now.
There are three things you need to concern yourself with when training for several hours a day in the heat and humidity:
- Preparation, hydration, and fueling days before the event.
- Staying Cool.
- Snacks and meals during and after long days of training.
Days before week long camps or several game tournaments over the weekend, you need to not only work on your sports skills and conditioning, but fuel properly before, during, and after training events.
You need to think about each meal and water you have as fuel for tomorrow's game. Skip a meal, don't eat your vegetables or fruits, or eat junk food, and you will feel sluggish during your game or at camp the next day. This means eating foods rich in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, good carbs, protein, and fats. Some options for good carbs, proteins, and fats include the following.
Carbs – primary energy source for speed and agility.
Multi grain breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, brown rice, vegetables (green leafy lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, carrots), and fruits, (tomatoes, strawberries, apples, berries, oranges, grapes, and bananas). Eliminate or limit sod and sugary drinks and replace with water and unsweetened drinks if you can, or seriously limit them.
Meats, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, almonds, beans, whey protein powder (optional), and peanut butter. I personally eat boiled eggs and salads in between meals during snack time, or have a few servings with a main course of meat or tuna fish for a good balance of plant and animal protein.
Fish, nuts, olive oils, omega 3 fortified products (milk, margarine, peanut butter). Typically I get most of these fats from nuts and fish, but I also supplement the omega 3 pills to help with healthy recovery.
This type of eating should become a daily habit for a highly active teen. If you see unwanted weight loss, then you need to eat more portions and add in more milk shakes and peanut butter sandwiches in between meals.
Drink 50-75% of your bodyweight (lbs) in ounces of water each day. So if you are a 150lb person, you need at least 75-100oz of water a day.
Related Article: ABD's of Nutrition
During prolonged activity in the heat, humidity, or even arid environments, staying cool is KING! And you do this by staying hydrated, soaking your head occasionally, and finding cool places to recover like shade, water, and air conditioning.
Body Heat = Fatigue
It's important to remember that half of fatigue is body heat. Cooling off whenever you can will prolong your ability to keep playing. If you have time in between games of a multi-game tournament, jump in a hotel swimming pool or get out of hot clothes and have ice cold towels draped on your head, torso, and feet.
During long days of intense activity, you have to continue to fuel and hydrate, and not just rely on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Over the years I have found a few tricks that keep me moving while training all day for several days.
Stay Hydrated – Don't Even Get Thirsty
Sip all day. If your're sweating profusely, add some Gatorade type drink or consider a medical-grade hydration product called Drip Drop. You can do this throughout your game – sip, don't chug. Stay on top of thirst but do not overfill your stomach with liquid while trying to run. Having something with some sugar in it will help you as you push your physical limits during the game. Fruit juice, Gatorade, orange slices, and bananas all work as quick energy sources. Find what works best for you during your practices, NOT your games.
After the last game or event of the day and you have an early game the following day, here is what you need to focus on.
A good way to check if you are under-hydrated is to take a scale with you to the event and weigh yourself before and after a game or series of games. This will determine just how much you need to consume to get back to normal.
This can be a tough schedule to keep during the summer for the serious athlete. Stay smart with your fuel, rest, and hydration, and you will see marked improvement in your performance on the field.
Part of this drill is to find what works best for you. Take notes each practice, game, and series of games on your performance. If you are doing well, heat is not bothering you like it once did, feeling good before, during and after the games, then you might have the right combination of what works for you. We all are different so find what works for you. Rinse and repeat until you have the desired outcome!
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.