As a Registered Dietitian, Certified Sports Dietitian and Sports Dietitian for professional, collegiate, Olympic, high school and masters athletes, my role is to help them utilize hydration and fueling strategies to optimize performance. Whether you’re starting a fitness journey, trying to stay fit, working on changing your body composition, or getting in shape for the summer, hydration and fueling are critical to your success. These recommendations can help improve strength, speed, endurance and recovery and reduce the risk of injury.
In addition to these specific tips, remember that your body is always in a state of preparation or repair. To optimize performance and recovery, you should fuel and hydration before and after every practice and practice.
Start your workouts well hydrated.
Urine should be light in color and larger in volume before you start exercising. Drink fluids and eat foods that contain fluids such as fruits, vegetables, soups, and smoothies before you hit the field or gym. Good hydration will improve strength, speed and endurance.
Drink extra electrolytes.
Along with optimal hydration, electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium can help prevent cramps. Drinking sports drinks and electrolyte packets mixed with water can help – as well as adding salt to your food or eating salty foods, such as pickles, soy sauce and broth – can increase your electrolyte intake.
Replace what you lost.
For every pound of fluid you lose during a workout or workout, replace that fluid with a bottle of water or a sports drink. For reference, a typical bottle holds about 20 to 24 ounces. For example, if you lose 5 pounds during exercise, you’ll need to drink about five bottles or 100 to 120 ounces of fluid in the hours after your workout. A good starting point is to try to drink 20 to 24 ounces immediately after training/exercise. And if you’re a heavy sweater, try two bottles or 40 to 48 ounces right away. Remember that post-exercise fluid replacement is in addition to your daily fluid requirements, which are at least 11.5 cups or 90 ounces for women and 15.5 cups or about 125 ounces per day for men.
Sip, don’t drink.
The way you drink can increase your performance or stink. Pushing water in an attempt to hydrate is not productive. The body can absorb a maximum of one liter (32 ounces) per hour in a hot and humid environment. Hydrate smarter, not harder, by drinking a maximum of four to eight sips of water or sports drink every 20 minutes.
Think before you drink.
Too much alcohol can cause loss of fluid, muscle, sleep quality, and athletic performance. Be smart about when you drink, what you drink and how much you drink.
Add protein, produce, and carbs.
Choose the foods you love as part of your plate. You can be picky about the foods you eat, but try to include protein, produce, and carbohydrates in every meal you eat.
Avoid skipping meals.
Skipping meals can hinder your performance and progress in changing your body composition. Try to be consistent with the number of meals and snacks you choose per day. Food is the fuel for performance; don’t let yourself run on empty.
Be sure to have breakfast.
Your morning meal is an opportunity to refuel, recharge and rehydrate so your body doesn’t have to play catch-up. Again, be sure to put protein, produce, and carbs on your plate. If you are too tired to chew, a smoothie can be a great choice.
Create a balanced and proportional board.
Half of your plate should be produce (fruits and vegetables), one quarter should be protein (meat, poultry, fish/shellfish dairy, eggs, or plant-based protein), and the last quarter should be carbohydrates (rice, pasta, quinoa, potatoes, bread or cereals). A proportional performance board provides quality, quantity and consistency to help you maximize power, speed, endurance and recovery.
Accept the carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates from fruits, pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and corn provide the fuel your body needs to exercise and exercise. If you cut carbs from your plate, you may be slower, weaker and more tired. In addition, eating too few carbohydrates forces your body to use lean mass as a fuel source during exercise. Just say no to some carbs.
Protein: more is not always better.
Protein requirements can range from 0.5 grams per pound to just over 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 120 pounds and consume 140 grams of protein each day, you may be taking in more than you need and may be reducing your carb intake by emphasizing protein to the exclusion of all other nutrients.
If you take in more protein than your body can use at one time, some will be used for energy or stored as fat, and the rest will be excreted, making excess protein a waste of money.
A better approach is to maintain adequate and consistent protein intake throughout the day by making sure to eat protein-rich foods as part of every meal and snack. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, which is about 3 to 4 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or cheese. If you consume plant-based protein, you can combine grains, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and soy foods to meet your protein needs.
Stay smart and smart about supplements.
Just because you can buy doesn’t mean you have to. Supplements are supplements to meals that help you get nutrients you may be lacking. Although there are many supplement options, they are not a substitute for food.
In addition to these hydration and nutrition tips, always get your sports nutrition information from trusted sources. There is a lot of misinformation in nutrition, and some advice can actually reduce your athletic performance. Working with a sports dietitian can help you strategize and individualize your nutrition plan to meet your goals within your budget, energy needs, and culinary abilities. You can find a CSSD Board Certified Sports Dietitian at www.eatright.org.