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As the summer continues and young athletes around the country take to the field to participate in a plethora of sports camps, taking preventive measures against heat becomes a primary focus.
In order to keep young athletes hydrated and energized, it is important not only to keep them regularly supplied with fluids, but a healthy food selection as well.
Nutritionists recommend several foods to help fight against dehydration and keep energy levels up during practice sessions.
Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut, said due to the way their body water is distributed, children dehydrate quicker so they need more water than adults.
Rodriguez recommended fresh fruits that carry a lot of water, such as watermelon and honeydew, because they are good for hydration.
Nutritionists describe these fruits as nutrient dense and Rodriguez said that means for the calories, there's an "awful lot of nutrients in them."
Rodriguez also said vegetables, such as celery, carrots and cucumbers, are a good alternative to keeping children hydrated.
Kristine Clark, director of sports nutrition and assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University, provides nutritional guidance to athletes that make up the university's 31 varsity programs.
Clark proposed a number of additional foods that could serve as sources of energy.
Bagels or bread with peanut butter and banana; cereal and skim milk with fruit; oatmeal made with milk with dried cranberries or blueberries on top, as well as yogurt with cereal and fruit are some of the selections Clark suggested.
“These combinations provide moderate amounts of protein, but excellent sources of energy-giving carbohydrates, the muscle cell’s number one go-to energy source," she said.
When it comes to staying hydrated, Clark made the case for both sports drinks and water. However, each option is better suited for different circumstances.
Sport drinks are optimal while kids exercise because they provide carbohydrates as well as electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and chloride. Clark said these minerals are lost in sweat, so the more someone sweats, the more fluids and electrolytes they need.
Water doesn’t provide carbohydrates or electrolytes, but it does replenish water that is lost as sweat, Clark said.
Clark said it’s best to stay hydrated with water during time of the day when kids aren’t exercising, such as sitting around indoors watching television or playing video games.
Christine Rosenbloom, professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University in Atlanta, also said that having fruits available is good for kids due to their natural sugars and carbohydrates as well as a high water content.
Rosenbloom said it’s important to help young athletes develop the idea that good nutrition is important to fuel performance on the field.
Rosenbloom said this way kids aren’t always rewarded with higher fat, high calorie foods because they’ve done a workout.
“Instead of taking kids out for chicken fingers and fries after the game, you know, maybe mom and dad could make peanut butter sandwiches and bring them to the game,” Rosenbloom said.
AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Katy Galimberti contributed content to this article
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