How to Keep Youth Soccer Players Properly Hydrated During Games
Mar 31, 2022
Hydration for soccer players should seem easy enough, but it can actually get complicated. Players have to contend with various factors, including weather & temperature, the intensity of play, their own water requirements and more. And if they don’t pay attention to these factors, their game can suffer. We will examine how players can properly hydrate themselves for the best performance possible.
Effects of Dehydration on Athletes
Dehydration is a soccer player’s (or any athlete’s) kryptonite. It’s no joke. For example, dehydration can slash your total endurance by more than 50%. So if you can normally run a full 90 minutes, dehydration will make you max out at 45 minutes instead. Even a marginal loss of hydration in the range of 1-2% can reduce performance.
The way dehydration “cripples” an athlete is far more dangerous than players often realize. A lack of proper hydration decreases blood volume and flow (to the skin), reduces sweat production, elevates body temperature and prematurely burns through muscle glycogen stores. Your body needs these elements to remain balanced - too much or too little of anything reduces performance.
Dehydration symptoms include excessive thirst, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness and, in severe cases, fainting. There are also mental effects that dehydration brings. Slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating and lower stress tolerance can all make you less effective on the pitch.
Dehydration is a quick way to sabotage your performance.
Factors that Influence Hydration in Soccer Players
Hydration for soccer players is tricky because every player has different requirements. For starters, no two bodies are exactly alike. Everyone’s body utilizes water and electrolytes slightly differently. Also, you have other external factors to deal with.
Hydration Factors for Soccer Players and Coaches to Consider
- Bodyweight/height - Taller and heavier players, have higher hydration requirements than shorter and lighter players. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
- Sex - Male soccer players require more hydration since they tend to weigh more than female players. Additionally, men typically have more lean muscle mass than women, and having more muscle mass means you need a higher water intake.
- Weather/climate - Playing in very hot weather/climates significantly increases your body’s demand for water. That is true regardless of your weight, sex, or level of conditioning. With that said, some players don’t acclimatize to hotter weather as fast as others, making it even more vital for them to stay hydrated.
- Playing intensity - Soccer players in demanding positions or with intense workout regimens need more hydration than their counterparts. More vigorous exercise and movement burn through glycogen stores faster, making adequate hydration even more important for these players.
- Player’s conditioning - Conditioning typically isn’t a problem for elite players, but it can be a concern for some nonetheless. A player who isn’t as well-conditioned will need to up their water intake since their body inefficiently stores glycogen and builds lactic acid faster.
- Player Biomechanics - A somewhat overlooked factor, biomechanics (how efficiently soccer players move) can increase the hydration requirements of some players compared to others. Players who don’t move as efficiently burn more energy even if they don’t move as much, making water requirements higher.
There are many variables here for both players and coaches alike to think about. Ideally, you want players to have balanced hydration - not being overhydrated (this can be problematic too) but, of course, not dehydrated either.
Hydration Tips for Soccer Players
Here’s the reality: figuring out hydration requirements for soccer players involves some trial error. You can get pretty close to knowing what you need using calculators, lean/fat mass measurements and so forth, but these tools aren’t perfect. Instead of driving yourself crazy with trying to figure out how much water you need, follow some basic guidelines and make tweaks as necessary.
Hydrate Before, During and After Games
You should drink a small amount of water before a game, somewhere in the range of 20 oz two to three hours before the game. You should also consume around 20 oz right after the game finishes. During the game, drink 10 oz every 10 to 20 minutes if possible. Of course, this may change depending on other factors. For example, you should drink more than the above-recommended levels if you’re playing on a very hot day or if pushing yourself harder than normal.
Keep Your Body Cool
The hotter your body temperature is, the more fluids you will lose. So it’s essential to stay cool when playing soccer, especially in hot weather or a hot climate. Drinking plenty of water is important, but you can adopt some other habits to prevent losing the fluids you consume. That includes sheltering in a cool area on hot days and using cool, wet towels on the body. Also, keep your legs raised to maintain good blood flow and, by extension, good hydration.
Monitor Hydration Levels Constantly
Now things get interesting here. Earlier, we said that you couldn’t measure the perfect hydration for soccer players. Nevertheless, you can get close. There are a few techniques to help you know roughly the ideal amount of water you should drink regardless of your weight, height, or any other factor.
Tips to Monitor Hydration for Soccer Players
As gross as it may seem, the colour (and yes, the smell) of your urine can tell you how well-hydrated you are. Take a look at this diagram below:
The first three levels are ideal, while the bottom five are not. If your urine is very bright yellow or dark, that means you’re severely dehydrated and should hydrate immediately before engaging in vigorous activity.
Check Weight Fluctuations
A good way to know how much water you need is to check your weight before and after a game. Remember, your body weight goes up and down daily - this is the result of water losses and gains. For example, a soccer player who weighs 175 lb before a game and weighs 172 lb after should consume the 3 lb (48 oz) of water they lost in addition to the amount they consume already.
Of course, your soccer players should pay attention to obvious signs of dehydration as well. Feeling thirsty is a dead giveaway in itself - by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. But a noticeable dip in performance accompanied by fatigue, concentration, or muscle cramping are also signs that you need to hydrate. Essentially, if you’re not feeling energized and ready to go, you’re probably dehydrated (or undernourished).
Hydration for Soccer Players - A Must Consider
Dehydration isn’t something to take lightly. Adequate water intake is literally the lifeblood of good soccer performance and the ultimate prevention against dehydration and heat-related injuries. So hydration for soccer players is serious for everyone on and even off the pitch to consider.
On a final note, many of you wonder about alternatives to water, such as Gatorade or diluted fruit juice. The answer to this is yes, but there is a “but .”Some sports drinks can actually replenish electrolytes better than water, BUT they can have a negative effect due to their high sugar and acid content. These acids and sugars can erode teeth and have other negative effects on your body if you overconsume them. So it’s best for you to make water your go-to hydration solution.
Are you looking for more tips on soccer nutrition? Check out our Storelli blog for ideas and insights!