I recently attended a 2-day sports nutrition workshop (there's nothing I love more than anything that brings nutrition & fitness together), where we discussed issues common to both athletes and regular ol' active people, like:
- Many of us show up to our workout already dehydrated
- Even athletes may underestimate how much fluid they lose through sweat
Pre-hydrating is important not just for preventing dehydration, but also for getting the most out of your workout. One recent study found that trained male cyclists performed faster and with more power when they were well-hydrated vs. when they were under-hydrated.
One way to avoid dehydration is to weigh yourself before and after a typical exercise session to learn your own personal fluid needs. And don't wait until you are thirsty or half-way through a tough workout to start drinking water!
Now, you can't talk about hydration and fitness without bringing up the subject of sports drinks. Here are some of the key points about sports drinks that I took away from the sports nutrition workshop:
- Save yourself a trip to the dentist: Sports drinks are mostly just sugar and no good for your teeth.
- You probably don't need extra salt: Most people drink sports drinks to replace the sodium they think they have lost but really, unless you are doing intense exercise for 3-4 hours at a time, you probably don't need to eat or drink extra salt.
- If you do need more sodium, you won't find it in a sports drink: Even if you do need salt, or find yourself craving it after a workout, a sports drink probably won't provide enough of it. One pound of sweat loss contains 450-700 mg of sodium. A typical sports drink or sodium replacement may contain 40-215 mg of sodium. Meanwhile, a 1 oz cheese stick (200 mg), slice of pizza (500 mg) or can of chicken broth (1,860 mg) provide much more. Just 1/4 teaspoon of table salt contains 600 mg so if you really need salt, maybe you want to just add it to whatever you are eating or drinking after your workout. And get this: A cup of chocolate milk (165 mg) provides not only more sodium than many sports drinks, but also the right combination of carbohydrates, to refuel and recover, and protein to repair muscles.
So, start drinking water before you start your fitness activity and consider skipping the sports drinks.
Here's what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has to say about hydration: Hydrate Right - January 2013
Thank you to Nancy Clark MS, RD and William Evans PhD for an educational and entertaining couple days of sports nutrition talk!
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Ambro