Updated: Feb 16
Adequate hydration is critical to an Irish dancer’s overall health and performance. It is important to understand that as individuals, each dancer has their own hydration requirements. Some individuals sweat extensively, have more surface area by which they lose fluids or simply are older (and thus larger) individuals and have higher fluid needs. It is critical to be well-hydrated prior to, during and after dance class, strength or cross-training and any physical activity.
It is well documented that dehydration can lead to lethargy, poor athletic performance, muscle cramping, poor concentration and focus. In some cases, dehydration can put an adult athlete’s health and safety in considerable risk especially during extended vigorous physical activity in warm or hot environments. While the adverse effect on young athletes are not as extensively researched, the negative effects are most likely related to decreases in cardiovascular system functioning, thermoregulation and central fatigue.
“In adult athletes, loss of 2% body weight due to dehydration has been shown to have detrimental effects on performance. In children, the negative effects of fluid loss begin to occur at 1% decrease in body weight”.
Despite this and long-standing beliefs otherwise, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) noted in their revised policy statement that children can tolerate and adapt to exercise in heat as well as similarly fit adults, when adequate hydration is maintained. Children and adolescents are particularly at risk as they may not notice the signs of dehydration nor correlate them to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration may include: noticeable thirst, fatigue, nausea, headache, dizziness, muscle cramping, irritability, weakness, dark yellow urine or no “need” to urinate, decreased performance, inability to focus.
Adequate hydration is critical to dancers overall health but there is also a risk in over-hydrating. Drinking too much fluid too quickly can lead to increased water in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia, that can lead to much more dangerous outcomes. Early signs of hyponatremia can include nausea and headache (though these are not specific to hyponatremia) along with more severe symptoms.
So how much fluid is appropriate for each individual dancer?
How can I tell if I’m hydrated?
The Pee Test – check out your pee.
I realize how strange this sounds but next time you go to the bathroom, check out the color of your pee. (see chart)
If it is more like a lemonade color, you’re on the right path of hydration.
If it is dark in color (like apple juice or darker), drink up!! (Urine is notably darker right after waking so don’t panic, but get drinking☺
If you are urinating clear, often, and large amounts, you might be overdoing it. Slow it down a bit.
How can I tell if I’m drinking enough fluids during dance class/cross-, strength-training/ physical activity?
Weigh yourself (with little clothing) before and after class. Keep track of how much fluid you drank during class. It is important that you’ve done your pee test prior to weighing yourself. If you are not well-hydrated before going to dance class, you are putting yourself at risk.
Your weight should not decrease more than a pound during that time. If it does, you need to bump up your fluid intake 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
If your weight increases, you may be drinking too much. Try to cut back a bit so that your pre- and post- activity weights are similar.
Some variance in those two numbers is normal
Follow the AAP Hydration Recommendations :
Provide and promote consumption of readily accessible fluids at regular intervals before, during, and after activity to offset sweat loss and maintain adequate hydration while avoiding over-drinking. Generally, 100 to 250 mL (3 to 8 oz) every 20 minutes for 9- to 12-year-olds and up to 1 to 1.5 L (34 to 50 oz) per hour for adolescents is enough to minimize sweat-induced body-water deficits during exercise as long as pre-activity hydration status is good.
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1. Van Pelt, J. Hydration in Young Athletes. Today’s Dietitian. 2015; 17 (4) page 28. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040715p28.shtml.
2. Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health, Bergeron MF, Devore C, Rice SG; American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement — climatic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e741-e747. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/3/e741.
3. Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health, Bergeron MF, Devore C, Rice SG; American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement — climatic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e741-e747. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/3/e741.