Leave it to me to mention something about dogs in a blog. But in fact, we all know the heated, long, humid days of summer make our workouts feel like they will never end. To keep your workouts and training efforts at their best during the warmer months, here are seven fueling tips to keep in mind.
1) Do not wait until an hour before you work out outside to drink fluids just because “it is a little warmer than usual today”. It is a given that summer gives us long, hot days. We create more sweat output in warmer climates, whether that is an afternoon outdoor basketball game, or training for a Fall marathon. Limiting your body of sufficient fluids creates lethargy, slowed reaction time, decreased sprint efforts, dizziness, increased heart rate, and other potentially harmful or even fatal side effects. Think about it. Why on earth would you want to engage in a workout that entails any of the above experiences? Hydrate throughout the day with water and/or a sports drink. Depending on the duration of exercise, a sports drink may be necessary. For active individuals engaging in physical activity for longer than one hour, consume a sports drink such as Gatorade. Or, those of you who have significant sweat output exercising under one hour; consuming a sports drink may be advised.
2) Rely on additional sources for fluid intake. You don’t just have to drink water all day to maintain adequate fluids. Summer is a great time to consume fresh fruits and vegetables. Did you know that foods like strawberries, watermelon, spinach, broccoli, and cabbage are 90-99% water? Additional sources of high-water content foods are 100% fruit juice, yogurt, soup, skim milk, apples, oranges and carrots. Foods with lower water content are food such as pasta, salmon, ice cream, legumes and chicken breast (60-60%). This summer, try adding a water-rich food to each meal and/or snack.
3) While warmer temperatures can decrease our appetite, continue to fuel consistently throughout the day. Just because you do not feel hungry, your body still requires calories for common everyday tasks, digestion/metabolism, and to support and fuel your workouts. For instance, if a stop-and-go athlete such as a basketball player or ice hockey player doesn’t have the proper glycogen(i.e. carbohydrate) stores in his or her muscles, the athlete does not have proper or enough fuel to produce an optimal winning performance. This trickles all the way down to athletes play in overtime – the more stored glycogen an athlete has, the greater minutes played in overtime. It is vital to keep your energy levels sufficient. If you feel full – especially post-workout, consider opting for fluids such as smoothies or a sports drink (especially during longer workouts of one hour). Also, try to spread out your meals every 2-3 hours in equal amounts instead of three larger meals which may run you down or cause you to skip snacks.
4) Understand the importance of a sports drink. Sports drinks have recently fallen into the same category as sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages. However, sports drinks were originally created to fuel the athlete. It contains electrolytes, fluids, and carbohydrate in the form of sugar – all important nutrients to fuel the athlete. While sports drinks contain sugar, the sugar (sucrose and glucose) inside them are rapidly absorbed and used for energy. Athletes use ~60-250 g (240-1000 kcal) of carbohydrates in the form of sugar per hour of exercise depending on the type of activity and intensity. Appropriately formulated sports drinks should contain no more than ~14 grams of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates per 8 ounces of fluid to help athletes meet the recommendations while promoting fluid absorption and minimizing gastrointestinal distress. If participating in activity for over one hour, a sports drink is an optimal choice.
5) Fuel pre-workout with favorable foods. Keep pre-workout foods light and of course, something you like. Higher fat foods prior to workouts limit gastric emptying and can weigh you down. Opt for lighter foods such as oatmeal and banana, yogurt and dried fruit, cold cereal and fruit, apple and cottage cheese, string cheese and crackers, are examples.
6) Fuel post-workout with favorable foods. Keep post-workout foods readily available. Try to consume a carbohydrate and protein mix of food sources within 30 minutes of performance, followed by a larger meal within the following 2 hours. Protein intake post-workout does not have to be excessive, but it will help to repair and recover muscle. Carbohydrate is important to replenish used glycogen and to reduce the onset of muscle soreness. Post-workout examples are chocolate milk, protein shakes, pretzels or bagel and peanut butter, yogurt and fruit, skim milk and cold cereal, oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, or ½ to one turkey sandwich (depending on workout intensity and time).
7) Fuel all day with easy-go-snacks. If you work at a desk or travel in a car, keep some snacks handy to consistently fuel your body. Items to keep in handy could be almonds, dried fruit, lean turkey jerky, fruit (bananas, apples, oranges), carrot sticks, individual packets of hummus or peanut butter, dried edamame, pita chips, pretzels, kale chips, peanut butter cracker packets, applesauce, string cheese and yogurt (if you have a fridge or cold-pack) and pistachios.
The bottom line is to fuel often, hydrate often and listen to your body. Listen to your body’s cues to identify if you are hungry, thirsty, tired, feeling ill or feeling great. Feeling both great and not-so-great will help you continue fueling the way you are OR, making some healthier adjustments to create a stronger you.