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Star Bulletin Alan Titchenal & Joannie Dobbs

Health Options
Alan Titchenal
 & Joannie Dobbs
                   Wednesday, August
29, 2001


Athletes need to hydrate and devour carbohydrates

Are you a soccer mom or dad? We all know that the game of soccer demands quickness and endurance. To meet these demands, the young or old athlete must first stay hydrated and second, consume adequate amounts of high-carbohydrate foods. These foods (sugars and starches) contain the "high octane" fuel required by muscles for high-intensity action. Without adequate carbohydrates, an athlete is forced to reduce effort, and endurance suffers.

Consequently, in the process of consuming enough water, it is a good practice for both athletes and aspiring athletes to consume some carbohydrates along with water. Sports beverages are designed to provide water and carbohydrates in proper proportions. Beverages such as sodas and fruit juices generally are too high in sugar for effective fueling and hydration. High-sugar drinks slow the rate of water absorption.

It is important to remember that in an activity such as running, young children generally use more energy relative to their body size than adults. For this reason, and because children tend to ignore their water needs, children can become over­heated easier than adults. Those su­pervising youth sports must keep palatable sports drinks available and encourage kids to drink them.

Before taking the field:

1. Provide well-balanced meals that contain adequate carbohy­drates and protein, along with other nutri­ents.

2. The most common cause of a "side stitch" or "stomach cramp" is allowing too little time between eating and exercise. Avoid stomach upset by timing meals around ac­tivity. Most people require three to four hours to completely digest and absorb the nutrients in a heavy meal. Smaller meals that contain primarily carbohydrate foods such as fruits and starches can be eaten by most people within two hours of exercise. But each individual needs to determine what works best for them.

3. Make sure all athletes start exercise in a hydrated state. Encourage drinking throughout the day and right before exercise.

During competition

1. Get your athletes in the practice of drinking during time-outs and half-times. If they are involved in a tournament with two or more games in a day, make sure they have a chance to cool off between games, drink plenty of fluids and consume some high-carbohydrate foods.

Most high-carbohydrate foods should be washed down with plenty of water to increase digestion and absorption and prevent stomach up­set. For example, if sports bars or "carbo-gel" products are used, they should be washed down with about 12 ounces of water (not a sports drink) for each ounce of the product.

2. If there are a few hours between games, a small- to medium-sized high-carbohydrate meal can be eaten. Some good choices include Spam-musubi (light on the Spam), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (light on the peanut butter, heavy on the jelly), poi, bananas and almost any other fruit.

If there is less than a two- hour break between games, fruits are a good choice. But wash it all down with plenty of good, cold water. Foods high in fat and protein should be avoided at this time because they take too long to digest.

3. Don't forget to rehydrate and refuel after the game. Drink plenty of water and other beverages and eat to replace both carbohydrate reserves and to provide protein to aid muscle recovery.

4. Remember that coaches and sports fans may not burn as much energy as the athletes, but they need to think about staying hydrated themselves.

Soccer is not unique in hydration needs. Athletes in all similar sports, such as basketball, tennis, and foot­ball, should follow the same tips.

Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences,
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa.
Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Service

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --

Human Nutrition, Food & Animal Sciences · University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
1955 East-West Road · Honolulu, HI 96822
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