Staying hydrated important as practices pick up

High school football players began two-a-day practices Monday.
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Hydration is an important topic as high school football practices get underway across Indiana.

The two-a-day drill at Heritage Christian means the football players are on the field from 9-11 a.m. and then again from 5-8 p.m.

"When you get out here in the sun and you have full pads and a helmet, you can really feel it," said Heritage Christian sophomore Drew Azbell.

Sports nutrition expert Heather Fink says with teenage boys, nutrition mistakes are predictable.

"Number one would be they don't eat anything before practice, so just getting something in them (would remedy that) and the second thing is, they don't drink enough," Fink said.

She recommends a breakfast with bread, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit and, in a rush, a sports chew.

"There are products like the Gatorade chews that have carbohydrate, have B vitamins, have some sodium, to help get them started, but then we need to follow it up with proper hydration during exercise," Fink said.

Fink recommends partnering a sport drink with water and consume 80 ounces of fluid per hour.

"So that would mean this bottle is one liter - 34 ounces - so it could be as much as two of these per hour that they need to consumer per hour in order to stay well-hydrated and prevent cramps," she said. "Dehydration is the number one reason for cramps."

It was a lesson Drew learned his freshman year.

"I had problems with feet at nighttime. Laying in the bed, my feet would, like, if I would stretch my feet out, they would cramp up really bad," he said.

He had to add more electrolytes to find his balance. Weighing in before and after practice helps establish a benchmark and flag changes.

Heritage Christian head coach Ron Qualls bans caffeine for his players.

"We have got to get that out of our system, because, guys, that will dehydrate you quickly," Qualls said.

Fink says it's key for players to avoid energy drinks.

"It is not appropriate to get the body going with caffeine and then, especially, have a problem with, they are out in the heat, they are sweating a lot and they have the cardiovascular strain of getting dehydrated on top of having stimulants in their system. It is a bad combination. I don't recommend energy drinks to anyone," she said.

After the first practice, Fink suggests fluids to help rehydrate with a salty snack and then nap, grab a snack and go back for round two.

"When you have practice everyday and then twice a day, it's very hard to keep up on your hydration and you cannot make up all of the hydration immediately after practice and be well-hydrated for the afternoon. You have to keep up during, because otherwise, you get so depleted that sometimes it can take up to 72 hours to fully rehydrate," Fink said.

At Heritage Christian, the rule is two cups of water for every one cup of Gatorade. Depending on your size, it will be different for everyone. The key is to find balance and listen to your body. If you are nauseous, dizzy, throwing up after practice, know that you need to talk with your trainer and modify your mix.