Aug 6, 2018
Power Up with Hydration
Susan Crowell

As part of a program called “PowerUp” at Stillwater (Minn.) High School, we aim to make better eating and active living easy, fun, and popular. Stillwater student-athletes have access to the latest information on adequate intake, proper macronutrient consumption, and meal timing. Because they’ve bought into these guidelines, we’ve seen dramatic results — the athletes eat better, feel better, and perform better — and we look forward to where PowerUp will take us in the future. One big part of the program is hydration.

Hydration is just as important as nutrition for high school athletes because dehydration can hinder performance. The PowerUp Sports Nutrition Playbook recommends athletes get 90 to 100 ounces of water a day, much more than they think they need or are “thirsty” for. This may vary, as you may have an athlete who is smaller in size and who needs less water based on their body size.

One way to calculate an individual’s water needs is by dividing their weight in half and using that number as the amount of needed ounces per day. For example, a 120-pound athlete may need 60 ounces of water daily (120÷2=60).

I tell Stillwater athletes that the key to staying hydrated is drinking water throughout the day. In the Playbook and during our sports nutrition talks, I encourage them to drink eight to 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning or at breakfast. Then, I tell them to carry a 24- to 32-ounce water bottle in their backpack to enable water consumption at school. By lunchtime, they should finish the water in the bottle and refill it for the rest of the day.

Before after-school practices or games, high school athletes should drink another 16 to 24 ounces of water, and then take in 16 to 24 additional ounces per hour of physical activity — or four to six ounces every 15 minutes. If they have a heavy practice or are playing in hot weather, more fluids may be needed.

Besides water, the second-best hydration option is milk. Specifically, chocolate milk is a great recovery beverage because it includes protein, carbohydrate, and potassium. Drinking chocolate milk 30 to 45 minutes after a practice or game will help replenish athletes’ glycogen stores and provide protein for muscle recovery.

In working with the Stillwater athletes, I have learned that they really enjoy sports drinks. Although I don’t recommend them as a primary source of hydration, I emphasize moderation if athletes really love them. The PowerUp Sports Nutrition Playbook explains that sports drinks should not be consumed with meals or snacks, and they are only appropriate during or after athletic activity. Even then, athletes should drink no more than 12 to 16 ounces in a session and only when the activity lasts longer than 90 minutes or when outdoor temperatures are high.

I’ve also discovered that some Stillwater athletes are fond of energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, and soda. Unlike sports drinks, these should be avoided at all costs. I tell athletes that these drinks spike their blood sugar and cause an energy crash, which can affect their performance. In addition, caffeinated beverages can make athletes jittery or anxious and interfere with sleeping habits.

Although there was some resistance at first, the Stillwater student-athletes have been very receptive to alternatives to sports drinks and sodas. In fact, the high school has plans to install a milk machine in its athletic hallway due to their positive response.

For more information on PowerUp or the PowerUp Sports Nutrition Playbook, please visit:

Susan Crowell, MS, RD, LD, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian for HealthPartners Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, Minn., and serves as an advisor to PowerUp, a community-wide youth health and wellness initiative. She has been working with the Stillwater School District's nutrition counseling program since 1999.

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