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Synthetic (Artificial) Turf vs. Natural Grass Fields

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    With the increasing popularity of youth sports, especially soccer, and the necessity for building more and more athletic fields, many communities are considering constructing synthetic (or artificial turf) athletic fields. Even the Arkansas Razorbacks are considering the move as outlined in a recent article published on January 17, 2009 in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Tim Murphy titled “Artificial surface is coach’s desire.” Yesterday’s artificial turf is much different than today’s synthetic in-fill systems in that the new in-fill technology creates a field that looks much more like the real thing (natural grass). The purpose of this turf tip is to provide some additional information regarding synthetic fields so that you’ll be more informed the next time your community is considering a switch from natural grass to artificial.

Maintenance:

It is a myth that synthetic fields require less maintenance than natural turfgrass fields or to say that artificial turf fields are maintenance free. Synthetic fields require 1) additional infill, 2) irrigation because of unacceptably high temperatures on warm-sunny days, 3) chemical disinfectants, 4) sprays to reduce static cling and odors, 5) drainage repair and maintenance, 6) erasing and repainting temporary lines, and 7) removing organic matter accumulation. In a recent presentation by the Michigan State University, Certified Sports Turf Manager, she cited that the typical annual maintenance costs of her artificial turf fields ranged from $13,720-$39,220, while the typical annual maintenance costs of her natural turf fields had a similar range of $8,133-$48,960 (1).

Long-term costs:

Long-term costs are less with natural turf fields compared to synthetic turf fields. Artificial fields need replacing every 8-10 years, whereas a natural turf field does not need as frequent renovation and can be renovated at a much reduced price compared to an artificial field. In a 16-year scenario, Fresenburg came up with an annual average cost for each field type as follows: the natural soil-based field, $33,522; the sand-cap grass field, $49,318; the basic synthetic field, $65,846; and the premium synthetic field, $109,013 (2).

Disposal costs:

When artificial turf (in-fill systems) needs renovating every 8-10 years, there is a hidden cost of disposal. Because the field is filled and top-dressed with a crumb rubber material (typically made from ground automobile tires), the material may require special disposal. Disposal costs are estimated at $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges (3).

Warranty concern:

Artificial turf (in-fill type) is a relatively new product. As such, its complete life span and maintenance requirements are not fully known. When considering the purchase of one of these systems, the answer to several questions should be researched prior to purchase. These questions include (adapted from Natural Grass and Artificial Turf: Separating Myths and Facts)(3):

Will the artificial turf manufacturing and installation company provide a warranty specifying the expected life of the product?
Will the selling firm provide a warranty bond for the life of the product? This will ensure that there is some legitimate recourse in the event of a product failure even if the seller is no longer in business.

Player preference:

A recent survey of 1,511 active NFL players by the NFL players association found that 73% of the players preferred playing on a natural grass system, while only 18% preferred artificial turf (4). Nine-percent of the players had no preference.

Player injuries:

There is a lack of research comparing injuries incurred on new in-fill artificial fields vs. natural grass fields (5). There are data indicating that the traditional artificial turf fields increased athlete injury, primarily due to increased surface hardness.
Although actual data are not available, anecdotal data are available from NFL players. Players were asked in a 2006 survey “Which surface do you think causes more soreness and fatigue to play on?”. Five-percent felt like natural grass systems increased fatigue, while 74% felt that artificial turf systems were more responsible for fatigue (5). Twenty- one percent felt they were the same. In the open comments section of the survey, the most common comment was “make all fields grass to prevent injuries.”

Potential increases in infections:

An aspect of synthetic turf that is now receiving increased scrutiny is the potential for increased incidences of infections among players that play primarily on in-fill systems. In a report titled “Texas Football Succumbs to Virulent Staph Infection From Turf”, at least 276 football players were reported to be infected with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, a rate of 517 for each 100,000 individuals (6). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported a rate for the general population of 32 in 100,000. These infections were primarily associated with increased skin abrasions associated with synthetic turf and the risk of infection that might occur off the field from infections. In-fill systems must now be routinely treated with special disinfectants to reduce the likelihood of infections, adding another cost to the maintenance of these fields.

High temperatures:

Artificial fields cannot be played on all the time due to temperature build-up on warm-sunny days. Artificial field surface temperatures have been documented as high as 199°F on a sunny day with an air temperature of 98°F (7). Researchers at Brigham Young University reported that the surface temperature of a synthetic football field on campus averaged 117°F, with a daily high of 157°F (8). On an adjacent natural grass field the surface temperature averaged 78°F, with a daily high of 89°F. Researchers at Penn State University studied the effect of using irrigation to reduce surface temperatures of synthetic fields and discovered that temperature could be decreased with irrigation, but the effects were short-lived (20 minutes) (9). Because of these high temperatures, an artificial field will remain largely unusable during warm days. Additionally, practicing on an artificial field could increase the incidence of heat stroke, muscle cramping, and overall athlete fatigue. Coaches holding practices on synthetic fields will need to monitor athlete health more closely and will need to limit the duration of practices on these surfaces to reduce the risk of athlete injury.

3 Words Every Athlete Needs to Hear

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By James Leath

“STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE!” yells Tasha, a point guard on the 6th grade YMCA basketball team I was coaching.

Immediately, I smile and start to explain to her that I forgot my watch and I needed to make sure we were on schedule. Tasha rolled her eyes, clearly unimpressed with my response.

“No big deal,” I had thought to myself on the way to practice when I realized I forgot my watch, “I’ll use my phone.” Fifteen minutes into practice, I had pulled out my phone to make sure we were on schedule. Big mistake.

“Can you believe the nerve of that girl?” I thought. “Here I am, the volunteer head coach, staying up late watching videos on drills and strategy, planning practices on my lunch break, staying late for players who parents are delayed picking up their child…and now some kid is telling me to put my phone away when all I am doing is making sure practice is on schedule?”

Reflecting back on that practice later that night, though, I asked myself what did Tasha really want? What was she really asking for?

I realized that she was looking for the one thing kids crave more than anything else. She wanted me to be there, in that moment, in that drill, watching her and her teammates. She wanted my attention.

She didn’t simply want me to care for her, or love her, or teach her how to play the game. She wanted more.

She wanted me to see her!

Have you ever seen the movie Avatar? During the film, the Na’vi race express their affection for each other not by saying “I love you,” but by saying, “I see you.” Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that how we should coach our athletes? We can love someone and still be less than present at times. But to “see” someone requires us to be fully engaged and present.

When a child knows you see them, they want to impress you. Changing the Game Project Founder John O’Sullivan’s TED talk teaches parents to say five simple words to your child after a game or practice, “I love watching you play.

The key word is watching.

Watching is being present and engaged. See the good. See the bad. And yes, it’s OK to even see the ugly. Just see all of it!

“I see you” does not mean coaching from the sideline. It does not mean constantly critiquing or second-guessing. It does not mean only pointing out mistakes. It means simply being present, engaged and watching.

“Were you watching when I made that goal?”

“Were you watching when the coach put me in?”

“Were you watching when I got fouled and the ref didn’t call it?”

“Did you see all my good passes or only the bad ones?”

We live in a world filled with distractions. We are always connected to email, to text, to social media, and have a phone on our hip 24/7. We have all been out to a nice restaurant and have seen a family at dinner, each on their own cell phone, fully immersed in Facebook, or Twitter, or texting, and not at all present with each other. We go to our doctor’s office and they are not looking at us, but typing on their computer as we speak. Eye contact and full engagement seem to be a lost art.

10538046_1580267368859600_5068602017086459143_nKids love presents, but what they need, and what they will remember, is presence. They need to know you notice them. They need to see an example of what it means to pay attention. We set that example with our actions.

When it comes to our kids sporting events I see many parents watching every practice, or attending every single game, yet rarely are they fully present. They are watching through the lens of a camera or a smartphone, or staring at their screen instead of their athlete. I see coaches sending texts, or on the side chatting with another coach instead of coaching their players.

Our kids notice when we are distracted. That’s what Tasha was telling me. Even though my use of the phone was legitimate, I forgot that we judge ourselves by our intentions, while others judge us by our actions. How our athletes perceive our engagement is not necessarily how good our intentions are. We are judged by our kids based upon what they see us do. The message I was sending to Tasha and her teammates was one that said “I expect 100% focus, effort and commitment from you, the athlete, yet I don’t expect that of myself.”

Coaches and parents must remember that our athletes thrive, not simply on love, but on being noticed. “Do you see me?” and “Watch me do this,” is child-speak for, “I want to show you I’m worthy of your affection.”

Here are 5 ways coaches and parents can make sure your athletes know “I see you”:

1. Be present

Parents, you are not required to be at every single practice or game. Your kids won’t think less of you for not being there all the time. In fact, many of them will appreciate those moments away from a parent’s attention. It allows for freedom. It tells them the experience belongs to them. But when you do go and watch, shut off your phone. Be a fan (no coaching). When you are there, be fully present.

Coaches, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be fully engaged in practice. Far too many coaches:

  • Fail to arrive prepared, on time, or dressed properly for practice
  • Stop coaching and start talking to a parent or fellow coach about unrelated issues, thereby checking out of practice
  • Send texts or check social media during game or practice time
  • Default to more scrimmage time instead of preparing and teaching

What message do you think these above actions send? Great coaching is hard work and needs your full attention before, during and after training. Your actions speak louder than words. Stay engaged, and so will your players.

2. Catch them doing something right…

…and acknowledge it both verbally and non-verbally. I had a basketball player last season that was afraid to shoot because her previous coach would yell at her when she missed. She needed consistent reassurance it was okay to shoot on her new team. After every shot, she would look over to the bench hoping to catch my gaze. Whether she missed or made the shot, she got a thumbs up from me. By the end of the season, she was my leading scorer. Research demonstrates that people perform best when they get five pieces of positive reinforcement for every one correction or critique. As World Cup and Olympic winning soccer coach Tony DiCicco states, the secret to developing successful athletes is to “catch them being good.”

3. Make it safe to fail…

…especially when you catch them doing something wrong. Athletes know when they mess up. Mistakes are inevitable. An adult’s reaction to a mistake can either encourage or hinder risk-taking. When Lionel Messi was a young player at Barcelona, he would try and dribble past four defenders, often losing the ball. Do you think his coaches yelled at him to pass? Nope. They stopped the play, gave him the ball back, and said, “Try that again.”

Coaches, if your players make a mistake, especially when they are fully focused and giving full effort, acknowledge their effort and encourage them to try again. Instead of taking them out of the game, call them to the sideline, tell them to try again, then send them back out there. That shows you trust them, and trust from a player to a coach goes a long way.

4. Connect with them about things not related to sports

A wise coach once told me “sports will be over and your athletes will have at least 2/3 of their life ahead of them. If your entire relationship consists of talking about sports, what then?” This shook me and made me realize that it was imperative to connect about things away from the field. This connection not only forms lifelong friendships, but it helps athletes perform better in two ways. First, they realize their worth is not simply just a pair of feet or some good hands, but as a human being. And second, this connection allows for a stronger relationship, one that can bear the burden of the hard truths both parents and coaches are required to discuss with the young men and women in their care.

5. Give them ownership of the outcome

World-renowned sport psychologist Dr. Jerry Lynch speaks of the three questions a coach should ask at halftime of a game. (1) What is working? (2) What is not working? And (3) How can we fix it? Do you see how these questions help players take ownership of the good, the bad, and the solution? By allowing them to have some input your players will compete harder because you have acknowledged their ideas and their input, and they are trying to execute their solution. You have seen them.As a parent, you do this by accepting your child’s goals for playing and letting the experience belong to them. Push them toward their goals, not your own, and when they succeed, remind them it was their effort that brought success.

Kids are not mini-adults, and, therefore, do not possess adult emotions, values, or priorities. Yet one thing they do have in common with adults is they want to be acknowledged. They want to be noticed when they get it right and told its OK when they get it wrong. They do not need to be coddled, but they do need a safe place to fail. When you do these things, your athletes will compete harder, take ownership, and excel.

That is why we must be very intentional about the things we do when we are watching our kids play, and especially when we are coaching them.

That’s why we must remember that any parent or coach can tell a child “I love watching you play.”

Great parenting and coaching emphasizes the WATCHING, and letting the child know that yes, “I see you.” Seeing them makes all the difference.

How Young Athletes Can Deal With Failure

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Here are five tips to boost sportsmanship in young players-and help them prepare for life in the process. Sportsmanship Tip No.1: Find a Role Model

Character is a word that gets used often, but its true meaning may be hard to explain to a young mind. It’s ultimately a choice to hold oneself to a higher standard. By raising standards early, an athlete can both give and expect mutual respect during their course of competition.

Find a pro athlete the child idolizes, and is a good character athlete, and have them “visualize” themselves acting as that athlete would.

Sportsmanship Tip No.2: Give 110 Percent

One way to instill the idea of sportsmanship is to let the athlete know that they should do their personal best and to treat teammates and opponents in the same fashion they wish to be treated. This age-old idea will help them become an admirable and respected competitor, and help them off the field as well.

Sportsmanship Tip No.3: Forget the Numbers

It’s important to the young athlete to understand that for as many victories as they hope to have, they must face losing if they’re going to play their sport.

An effective method is to have a young athlete pick out well-known popular athletes, particularly in their sport or sports of interest, and look up their statistics. Knowing that professional athletes have faced defeat can teach the young competitor to deal with loss rationally and graciously.

More: 3 Sports Psychology Tips for Parents

Sportsmanship Tip No.4: What (Not) to Do

Dealing with adversity and authority figures in sports is another challenge that young athletes must face. This is another instance where the proper explanation of how situations should and should not be dealt with, as well as examples from professional sports, should be used.

One can easily find examples of the proper and improper handling of referees, umpires and judges to provide visual examples to back up instruction. (Baseball is especially good at showing how players should deal with inconsistent officiating.)

Sportsmanship Tip No.5: Have Fun

Sometimes young athletes need to be constantly reminded that sports are designed to be fun. Practice and skill building should be offset by times of goofing off, perhaps practicing with crazy costumes or with fun music, and not critiquing or coaching in the traditional sense.

This one little thing can do wonders in reminding the athlete not to take anything too serious and to have fun doing what they have chosen to participate in.

Best Fall Sports

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With the change in seasons from sticky summer humidity to fresh fall air comes the arrival of autumn sports to watch and play. Now’s the time to cook up some wings, grab a few beers and settle into the comfy couch to cheer on your favorite professional and college football teams. But make sure to get out there and enjoy the breezy fall weather before it turns cold by organizing a few pick up games of your own or even joining a local league. Here are our fall sport ideas:

  • Sure, you’re no Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson, but we’re sure you’ve got some sweet moves of your own. Before the big game, organize a pick up football game of your own with the friends you typically watch with. You’ll get pumped up, feel inspired and probably feel less guilty about indulging in your favorite greasy game foods. Make it fun by turning it into a weekly thing, with jerseys and a funny team name.
  • If you’re a Ronaldinho, Ronaldo or Pelé fan, get your kicks by organizing a fall soccer tournament or joining a local league. Soccer is an awesome fall sport because it’s so fast-paced and requires consistent running, that the cool air of fall is a nice break from the stifling heat of summer that makes this kind of activity more strenuous. Unless you’re the goalie, soccer is an amazing cardio workout because it requires 90 minutes of stopping, starting, jumping, sliding and direction changing while keeping possession of a ball – it’s hard work.
  • For a more laid-back fall sport, consider playing bocce ball. Though it’s not a workout per say, you’re at least on your feet the entire time. Bocce is an exercise in precision and strategy, and we think it’s quite underrated.

Is Participation Trophies Worth Giving Out?

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In November 2013, Keller Youth Association football decided to stop giving out participation trophies at the end of each season. Needless to say, this local sport’s league decision went national with parents and coaches taking hard and fast stances on whether or not participation trophies were a good or bad thing in youth sports. It’s arguably one of the most debated things in sports these days, so what’s your opinion?

Participation Trophies Undermine the “Real” Winners

According to a poll released by Reason-Rupe, an estimated 57 percent said “only winners” should receive a trophy for their participation in kids’ sports.

TODAY contributor Michele Borba said;

Kids see through it, they know when they deserve the trophy, gold star and the red plate,” Borba said. “Those unearned accolades also make kids hooked on those rewards. There goes the internal motivation and the joy of doing your best. What’s the point of effort? Everyone is going to get a trophy for just showing up and breathing.

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Participation rewards give kids the unrealistic expectation that attendance matters more than effort. Kids need to learn that “just showing up” isn’t going to be good enough for the real world. Having studied recent increases in narcissism and entitlement among college students, Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me,” warns that “when living rooms are filled with participation trophies, it’s part of a larger cultural message: to succeed, you just have to show up. In college, those who’ve grown up receiving endless awards do the requisite work, but don’t see the need to do it well. In the office, they still believe that attendance is all it takes to get a promotion.”

In life, “you’re going to lose more often than you win, even if you’re good at something,” Ms. Twenge comments.  “You’ve got to get used to that to keep going.”

Giving everyone an award actually means you are undervaluing the hard work and effort and talent of a team/player that really excelled. Why should a kid push themselves if they know they don’t even need to be “good enough” to get rewarded? If they just show up most of the time that’s enough to get them that trophy and that is NOT the kind of generation we should be raising.

Participation Trophies Can Be A Good Thing

Just because a player wasn’t lucky enough to be sorted onto the winning team, that doesn’t mean their well-played season should go unrecognized. Participation trophies can be a big self-esteem booster and a source of pride for kids who are just starting sports.

As one soccer mom argued;

Sending him home empty-handed at the end of a hard-fought season won’t help him learn the lesson of losing, it will teach him early that there’s no value in the attempt…. Most participation trophies are given to the pee wees, the tiny tots, the youngest players who will probably escape with their Ivy League futures intact and perhaps a sense of accomplishment for other qualities that we still appreciate—like just giving something a go even though you may not be any good, sportsmanship, teamwork, losing with grace, and finding joy in an endeavor, even when you know you won’t be the best. Leaving with a symbol of those things can’t be so bad.

Hilary Levey Friedman, a sociologist and author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, said, “while parents are wise to the general worthlessness of participation trophies, ‘the kids are even savvier. The first trophy means something, even if it’s just a participation trophy. It’s very exciting, and all the kids I studied, remembered the circumstances from the first trophy they got. But very quickly, these participation trophies lose their meaning unless it’s for a really big win.'”

Yes, as players get older they realize that a participation trophy isn’t worth much, but giving a 6 year old their first trophy isn’t going to ruin them for life and make them think that they deserve a reward just for showing up. If a kid thinks that attendance is the only thing that matters they are missing the real point of being on a youth sports team, and that is something the parents and coaches need to address with the individual player.

So what do you think?

4 Ways to Make Managing League Volunteers Easier

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Without volunteers, most youth sports leagues wouldn’t be able to keep the fields open for long. Every league manager knows this, and while getting new volunteers can be hard, you want to make sure that you are getting the most out of the volunteers you do have!

Here are 4 tips to better manage your sports league volunteers:

1. Create a volunteer handbook.

Let your volunteers know what to expect this season (and what is expected of them!) with a volunteer handbook. You don’t need a team that accounts for every possible situation, but at least lay out some ground rules so your volunteers have a game plan for the season. For instance, you could include a code of conduct, emergency contact information, directions to all the fields and so forth. Having this information readily available makes it much easier for volunteers to do their jobs and do it right!

2.  Hold training sessions before the season begins.

One way to make managing your league volunteers easier is to actually meet them before they are expected to make anything happen! Put a face to a name, see what kind of personality they have, learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their goals are for the season. If you have a few training sessions before the season begins you can also help establish expectations and ensure your volunteers are all coming in with the same baseline knowledge. This is especially important for someone that has never volunteered for your organization before! A training session helps prepare them for what’s ahead and gives you the chance to teach your volunteers what you need them to know.

3. Use a master calendar to coordinate events.

Every league coordinator knows what it feels like to be hosting an event (awards ceremony, tournament, open registration, etc.) and have no volunteers show up. On the flip side, having twice as many volunteers as you need can also make for a very frustrating day! A master calendar helps you coordinate with your volunteers and ensure that you have the right number of volunteers for each event, no more and no less. You can control the calendar, but let volunteers pick and choose which events they’d prefer to work at. If all your events are evenly staffed, great! If not, you can always shuffle volunteers as needed. Make sure that calendar automatically emails volunteers when information is updated so there is no breakdown of communication.

4. Have clear lines of communication.

And speaking of communication, having a clear and organized way to contact your volunteers is essential. There is no shortage of ways to connect with your volunteers; email, text, social media, phone calls, mobile apps, the league website and more! There is no reason your volunteers should ever be confused about what is going on! Make it easy for them to get in touch with you, as well as with each other.

Are Your Players Emotionally Fit for the Game?

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When players feel supported by their coaches and teammates, they are more likely to have fun and be successful. Supporting players includes continuously and positively reinforcing their efforts so that they are emotionally ready to bounce back from mistakes and to cope with difficult situations.

The Positive Coaching Alliance, calls this “Filling the Emotional Tank.” A player with a full tank will be ready to deal with most situations and will more likely have fun and therefore want to stick with youth sports. A player with an empty tank might struggle when constructive feedback is given and could feel deflated easily.

Coaches are encouraged to set team standards for support. Discuss with your team how they can help each other prepare for all that might happen in a practice or game situation. Most importantly, reinforce a positive and fun atmosphere for your team.

Local U13 Team from BattleLax Lacrosse Raises Money for Shootout for Soldiers

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A team of U13 boys from Haymarket, Va participated in the recent Shootout for Soldiers Tournament in Baltimore, Md.

The BattleLax U13 team has an important motto: “One Team, Team First”. As a team, they have embodied this motto by fundraising for the SFS. They have all individually fundraised, but as “one team” have raised more than $5,900 to date in support of the event.

Read More about their experience HERE.

13 Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat

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As summer temperatures hit, here are a number of important tips.

– Drink enough water to prevent thirst.

– Monitor fluid loss by checking the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly or cloudy.

– For short-duration (less than 60 minutes), low-to-moderate-intensity activity, water is a good choice to drink before, during and after exercise.

– Any time you exercise in extreme heat or for more than one hour, supplement water with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrates. This prevents “hyponatremia” (low blood sodium), which dilutes your blood and could also lead to serious impairment and death.

– Begin exercise well-hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and within the hour before, during and after your exercise session.

– Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of a long exercise bout, and avoid exercising with a hangover.

– Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (though excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, according to the most recent report by the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.

– Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables per day for optimum health, as they all contain various levels of water and the all-important nutrient potassium.

– During exercise, for those who experience high sodium losses, eat salty foods in a pre-exercise meal or add an appropriate amount of salt to sports drinks consumed during exercise. Orange juice is high in potassium. Dilute juices, such as V-8 or orange juice, 50/50 with water so that the drinks are 6 percent carbohydrate solutions (the same as sports drinks), which will empty from your stomach quicker than 100 percent juice (juices are naturally 12 percent solutions), allowing the electrolytes and water to quickly reach your heart and organs.

– Following strenuous exercise, you need more protein to build muscle, carbohydrates to refuel muscle, electrolytes to replenish what’s lost in sweat, and fluids to help rehydrate the body. Low-fat chocolate milk is a perfect, natural replacement that fills those requirements.

– You can also replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt and potassium, such as soup and vegetable juices.

– For long hikes, when you’ll need food, dried fruit and nut mixtures contain high amounts of potassium, sodium, protein, carbs and calories — though continue to drink plenty of water.

– To determine your individualized need for fluid replacement: During heavy exercise, weigh yourself immediately before and after exercise. If you see an immediate loss of weight, you’ve lost valuable water. Drink 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost; use this figure to determine the amount of water (or sports drink) you’ll need to drink before and during your next exercise session to prevent weight/water loss in the future.