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Hydration Tips: Before, During, and After Exercise

Hydration can affect every part of your athlete's performance and overall well-being. Athletes should drink 2 to 3 cups of water within 2 hours before exercise. Athletes should replace every pound lost in weight with 2-3 cups of water within 2 hours after exercise.

Before, During, and After Exercise

Drinking water during exercise has been reinforced by our sense of thirst along with coaches and parents telling us to stay hydrated. However, less emphasis has been placed on hydrating before and after our sport of choice. Hydrating before and after exercise is important to our performance and recovery.

NATA Guidelines (1)
The guidelines by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) can be a helpful guideline of how to stay hydrated during preparation, performance, and recovery.
*These guidelines are for adults so adjustment may be necessary at the children's and parents’ discretion.

Before Exercise: 

  • Drink 2 to 3 cups of water within 2 hours before exercise.  
  • 10-20 minutes before performance, drink an additional 7-10 ounces of water (around ¾ to 1 ¼ cups). 

During Exercise: 

  • For every 10-20 minutes of exercise, drink ¾ to 1½ cups of water.  
  • Drink beyond your thirst! 

After Exercise: 

  • Athletes should replace every pound lost in weight with 2-3 cups of water within 2 hours after performance but at least within 6 hours. 

What influences body water loss (1)?

Factors such as weather, particularly hot and humid weather, the specific sport, and an individual’s sweat rate influence how much water is lost during an activity. Hydration needs are different for every individual and should be addressed accordingly.

How much water should my child drink?



Daily Water Needs 

Male and Female 

4-8 years 

7 cups 


9-13 years 

10 cups 


14-18 years 

14 cups 


9-13 years 

9 cups 


14-18 years 

10 cups 

*Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (2).

How children can tell if they are dehydrated:

This graphic by Children’s Health is an easy way for children to determine if they need to drink more water (3).

Tips to Encourage Hydration (3):

  • Encourage hydration before, during, and after sports.  
  • Give children a water bottle to encourage hydration throughout the day. 
  • Avoid sugary beverages like soda and juice. 
  • Teach children how their urine color correlates to their hydration levels. 
  • Have designated water breaks in youth sports and adjust to weather conditions (4).  Telling them to drink water is not enough! 


  2. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Water. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Sodium, Chloride, Potassium and Sulfate. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press; 2005. pp. 73–185.  
  4. Cleary, Michelle A et al. “Hydration behaviors before and after an educational and prescribed hydration intervention in adolescent athletes.” Journal of athletic training vol. 47,3 (2012): 273-81. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-47.3.05