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The Camelbak Hydration Guide

Mountain biking with my daughter is one of my great joys. We’ve been tooling around together on the trails since she was eight. They were simple ones at first. As she grew older (she’s 12 now), so too did her confidence, her bike skills, and her ability to push through the harder hills, not to mention the occasional scrape up.

Biking has also been the perfect place to show her how to care for her body. It's also taught her to power it up with nourishing foods and water while she chases her dreams and passions. And just as importantly, to replenish and rest when her body needs it.

Here are some easy tips for helping your daughter fuel her best so she never runs on run on empty on the bike or wherever her adventure takes her.

Little Bella with Camelbak hydration pack at Sea Otter

Why is hydration during exercise so important? 

Much like your favorite electronic gadget, you can think of bodies as being made up of both hardware (i.e. bones and skin) and software (i.e. your mood or your energy levels).

Good hydration is important to helping both of these systems function at their best in addition to well-known benefits like helping you sweat to stay cool, transporting nutrients to cells and removing toxins (through urine), and helping cushion your joints. That's because water makes up about 60% of a person’s body weight-and even more in children.

When your hardware (muscles and cardiovascular system) are your software (your joy at being on the bike) are running at their peak, it’s easier for you to feel your best as well as perform your best.

Consider this:

At 1% dehydration: Your mood slips. Research shows people rate themselves as feeling more sluggish and less alert. (mood)

At 2% dehydration: Your problem solving skills aren’t as sharp. Your short term memory and attention both dip. (mind)

At 3% dehydration: Muscle strength and power decrease by about 2%, and exercise feels harder. (mojo)

I call this your mood, your mind, and your mojo. All 3 are important not just for staying strong, but for enjoying the ride!


Are there anything kids should be doing differently than adults?

Kids have different water needs than adults depending on their age. Things like higher elevation, temperature, and humidity can also increase your child’s fluid needs during practice. Children can be so caught up in the fun of their activity and inadvertently become reluctant to stop and take a sip.  It’s really important for parents and coaches to encourage regular water breaks!  Once kids feel thirsty, they may are already be 2-3% dehydrated.


Age                 Daily Water Intake Recommendation

4-7                   1,700 mL (about 7 cups)

9-13 girls         2,100 mL (about 9 cups)

9-13 boys        2,400 mL (about 10 cups)

Source: IOM

How is female hydration different?

The recommendations for girls ages 9-13 are slightly less than for boys.

With my own daughter (compared to my son), I have found that other aspects are just as important to her success.  For instance, finding a water bottle in with a pop of fun color, helps her feel like it’s something she’s excited to sip! Kids love to customize, too.  You can you pop fun ice cubes inside or a fun motivational sticker. The more she likes her bottle, the more she will sip from it.


What is a good measure or rule of thumb to stay hydrated? 

In hot weather, enjoy plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes and grapes. About 20% of our total water intake each day actually comes from the foods we eat!

As a general rule, drink 2 cups (16 oz.) of water 2 hours before your practice so your body is well hydrated from the start.

Stop for a sip every 15-20 minutes, ideally taking 2-3 ounces (2-3 sips or squirts)

How do you know when you are dehydrated?

In children, thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration status.  They can distracted or their thirst mechanism may not be fully formed. By the time we actually receive signals from our body that we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated, which means we’re behind the eight ball and not performing at our best mentally or physically.

For a quick hydration check, "check the bowl." Urine that has a lighter color (like lemonade) with no strong smell indicates good hydration. Urine that’s darker (like apple juice) and has a stronger smell is a sign you need to drink more.

Lemonade in hand with bike glove

When should a girl use drink mix?  Is water alone a better choice for hydration?

For exercise less than 60 minutes, filtered tap water is the perfect choice.  For exercise lasting longer than 60-90 minutes, replenishing with carbohydrate and electrolytes is helpful during and after exercise. This can be done with a 100% all natural sports drink mix, or even by pairing your water bottle with a piece of fresh fruit (like orange slices or a banana), or a 1/2 a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread, 1/4 cup of all natural trail mix (with a mixture of dried fruit, nuts and seeds).

Research shows people drink more if they like the temperature. If it’s possible to chill the drink out in the fridge or the freezer for a bit before the ride, that may help your young rider sip more frequently.

Kate Geagan, MS, RD  is a CamelBak Hydration Expert and an award-winning dietitian and nutrition pioneer who is helping to lead the next generation of food and health conversations. An international speaker, consultant, author and columnist, Kate has empowered millions of eaters  to fall in love with foods that are better for people and the planet.

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