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Hydration and Exercise

Hydration and Exercise Essentials

Writing about hydration tips to beat summer heat would be incomplete without additional information on hydration during exercise (especially in summer heat). Most individuals that engage in low/moderate intensity exercise for less than 60 minutes short-duration can stick with water for hydration. Start your exercise routine well-hydrated, sip 4 to 8 fluid oz. of water every 15 minutes or so, and drink water after you are finished.

Exercising in summer heat (extreme temperatures) and/or for more than 60 minutes calls for more than water for optimum hydration. Consider supplementing with a sports drink. —Sports drinks contain a dilute mixture of carbohydrate and electrolytes. —Most contain about 50 kcal/cup with about 3 to 4 teaspoons of carbohydrate  (sugar) and moderate amounts of sodium (lost in sweat) and potassium. They are formulated to contain less sugar than juices, for optimal, fast absorption (6-8% carbohydrate). A risk of exercising in extreme heat, for long periods, without a sports beverage, is developing “hyponatremia” (low blood sodium). Diluted blood causes nausea, vomiting and can lead to serious health impairment, even death.

Hydration: Homemade Sports Drinks and Post-Workout

You may dilute juices to create a 6% carbohydrate solution. Try V-8 (high in sodium and potassium) and/or orange juice (high in potassium). Mix with water in a 50/50 ratio. This ‘homemade’ sports drink, like commercial varieties, is also more quickly (better) absorbed than straight juice.

Weigh yourself before and after heavy workouts, especially those that cause excessive perspiration. For every pound you lose during your workout, drink 2 cups of fluid. After workouts, you need to replenish glycogen stores and you need moderate amounts of protein so consider drinking a truly nourishing beverage (with some sugar), like low-fat chocolate milk. Another suggestion is to blend a quick refreshing smoothie made with fruit and/or vegetables, yogurt and a bit of juice and/or milk. Drinking a smoothie post-workout offers hydration benefits and key nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates.

Runners Diet: Best Foods to Fuel Your Run

Everyone, including athletes, should consume a well-balanced diet and a runners diet is no exception. Important dietary factors tied to running performance include how much (quantity), meal timing and specific food selection. Regardless of whether a run in short or long, an adequate intake of carbohydrates is essential for providing energy (the body’s preferred source of energy). However, protein plays an important role in a runners diet since it is needed to build muscle tissue. Many protein-rich foods contain nutrients which enhance muscular function – essential for any runners diet.

Runners Diet Basics

A serious and motivated runner should never underestimate the importance of meal structure and timing when planning his menu. Calories will vary. Carbohydrates are a key player in a runners diet but are hardly the only player. In general, a runners diet should be composed of, on average, 60% of calories from carbohydrate, between 15 and 20% from protein (up to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass or 1/2 gram per pound of total weight), and 20 to 25% fat, primarily foods that offer ‘heart-healthy’ unsaturated fats such as fish, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils and other plant foods. A runner should fuel herself often, eating at least 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks daily. A runners diet should also include a light meal 30 to 60 minutes before a run (on average 200 calories) and a heartier meal within 60 minutes post-run (moderate protein content [at least 15 grams] to repair and re-build muscle tissue).

Important Nutrients in a Runners Diet

Protein, vitamin D and the major minerals potassium and calcium (all found in dairy products) work together to maintain proper muscle function. Vitamin D binds to muscle tissue receptors to promote growth and strength. Another major mineral, magnesium aids in muscle function (contraction and relaxation) while manganese, a trace mineral, works as a ‘helper’ for certain antioxidant enzymes that assist in repairing damaged muscle tissues. Iron and zinc, two trace minerals, are also important in a runner’s diet. Iron helps transport oxygen to muscle tissues and zinc is important for muscle metabolism. Foods rich in these nutrients include lean meats and fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains and leafy green vegetables.

Runners Diet: Pre-Run Meal Suggestion

The optimal runners diet begins with a nutritious pre-run breakfast composed of mostly carbohydrate, some protein and little fat. One suggestion includes 1/2 of a whole-grain English muffin (toasted) topped with 1 TB peanut butter, 1/2 banana and 6-oz. Greek-style yogurt mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey and at least 12 oz of water. This mix of foods and nutrients fuels a run better than a meal composed of only carbohydrate (toast, fruit and juice).

Post-Run Meal Suggestion

A runners diet should include be a heavier, ‘recovery’ meal (within 60 minutes of workout completion). A chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and 1/4 sliced avocado, 8 oz low-fat chocolate milk and fruit is one suggestion. Pasta is a good post-run meal as well. Just choose whole-grain and limit it to about 2/3 cup, cooked and topped with 2 tsp. olive oil. Pair it with 4 oz grilled fish and lots of non-starchy veggies that are high in absorbable calcium, such as broccoli and bok choy.

All athletes ask about protein supplements and protein powder. You can choose one a part of a healthy runners diet but avoid the low carbohydrate, ultra-high protein powders and look for a whey-based formula. A runners diet wouldn’t be complete without discussing hydration. Drink plenty of plain water and sports drinks as needed for long runs.

Fuel Your Workout

Engaging in regular workouts doesn’t give you license to eat significantly more food! The best way to balance diet and exercise is to plan your menu in advance. You need fuel in the form of food, just like a car needs gas, to have the energy to press through your workout. During an average, moderate-intensity workout, a woman burns approximately 350 to 400 calories.

After Burn – extra fuel needed?

What about after burn? Doesn’t your metabolism stay elevated for the next 12 to 24+ hours? One research study found that women burned more calories for up to 67 hours following an intense 40-minute cardio workout. That sounds impressive, however, that after burn effect added up to only 50 additional calories expended (in total). One Oreo cookie (only one) has about 50 calories. Thus, the after-burn effect is pretty insignificant when you look at it from that perspective.

Pre-workout fuel

About an hour before you head outside for your run or to the gym, have a light-to-moderate-sized snack, about 150 to 250 calories on average. It should be a carbohydrate-rich snack with a bit of protein. Stear clear of high fat fare or too much protein or fiber as these nutrients delay gastric emptying and digestion, which may cause abdominal cramping. Great workout fuel snacks include a slice of whole-wheat bread with 1 TB of peanut butter, a light yogurt mixed with a 1/4 cup of reduced-fat granola or 10-oz of low-fat chocolate milk.

Post-workout fuel

Fuel properly post-workout to replace depleted glycogen stores with a meal that is composed of simple and complex carbohydrates. Healthy simple carbohydrates include fruits and dairy products. Healthy complex carbohydrates include vegetables and whole grains. Your post-workout meal should also contain a moderate amount lean protein (10 to 20 grams) and a bit of healthy fat; plus plenty of water. Again, in addition to providing your body with glucose (quick fuel) to build up the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, a post-workout meal rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps to repair muscle tissue, ease post-workout soreness and replenish body fluids.