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Nutrition, Hydration and Sleep for Youth Athletes

By Paul Ohanian, US Lacrosse, 05/03/18, 12:00PM CDT

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Not to be overlooked, proper sleep is also critically important for athletes who want to maximize performance. Having a consistent sleep routine is recommended.

It’s no secret that athletes have to take care of their bodies in order to play their best. That’s a given. But more than getting peak performance, athletes who cut corners could also be putting themselves at higher risk for injury.

“We think it’s important for athletes to be well-hydrated, well-nourished and well-rested,” said Dr. Kari Kindschi, primacy care sports medicine physician at Medstar Health.

“Hydration is really important because water is really important to the body. Athletes are probably most focused on declines in performances, but we also have to think about health issues that come from dehydration. We want athletes to be hydrated throughout the day.”

While Kindschi advocates primarily for hydration by water, she also notes that sports drinks can be helpful for some athletes.

“Sports drinks are really important for certain people,” Kindschi said. “If you are a salty sweater, it makes sense to take in a sports drink during activity. We want to think about the intensity level and the length of the period you are working out.”

Dr. Lindsay Jones, pediatric sports medicine physician at Medstar Health, challenges athletes to think about the types of food they consume.

“A healthy diet impacts a young athlete’s development because what we take into our bodies is what we use for energy. And energy is what we need to perform on the athletic field,” she said. 

Kindschi and Jones recently combined for a presentation, “Nutrition, Hydration & Sleep for Youth Athletes,” the newest installment in the US Lacrosse/Medstar Sports Medicine Health & Performance Series.

“If nutritional intake for an athlete is not adequate, then the athlete may not perform as well. There may be more errors, and injury risk goes up,” Jones said.

Not to be overlooked, proper sleep is also critically important for athletes who want to maximize performance. Having a consistent sleep routine is recommended.

“It takes about seven days to get into a new sleep pattern.  Try to have the same time for going to bed each day, and the same time for getting up,” Kindschi said.

Sleep deprivation can affect mental awareness, memory, reaction time and overall performance level. Results from one study found that adolescent athletes who slept eight hours or more were 68% less likely to be injured than athletes who didn’t.

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