Hydration is always a concern during exercise, but it deserves special attention during the summer. Hot and humid weather can quickly turn thirst and fatigue into a dangerous situation and the need for medical attention. With a few simple steps and by paying attention to warning signs, you can stay safe and hydrated during your summer workouts.
Focus On Fluids
Drinking fluids hydrates cells and replenishes the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Most health experts agree that water is sufficient to keep you hydrated when exercising at a moderate intensity for less than one hour. A sports drink that replenishes electrolytes can be beneficial when exercising for longer periods, at a high intensity, or in hot and humid weather.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking when you are thirsty is adequate for most healthy adults to stay hydrated throughout the day, but don’t wait for thirst to start hydrating during exercise. The exact amount of fluid you need varies from person to person. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests monitoring both body weight and urine color to determine your hydration level. If your body weight fluctuates by one pound or less after exercise, and your urine is light in color, you are well hydrated.
After assessing hydration status, the ACSM suggests general guidelines for staying hydrated during your workout.
Drink 16-20 ounces at least four hours before exercise.
Drink 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.
During exercise, drink 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.
After your workout, drink 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
Other Factors in Hydration
During exercise, hydration is related to your sweat rate. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself. The harder you exercise, or if you are exercising in a hot environment, the more your body is going to sweat and quickly become dehydrated. On hot days, work out in the early morning or in the evening when the sun is less intense and the temperature is cooler. Choose a route or location that is shaded. On days when the heat or humidity reach dangerous levels, take your workout indoors.
Wear light-colored clothing that will reflect sunlight and choose moisture-wicking fabrics. Clothing made of this material helps the sweat to evaporate, cooling the body. Thick fabrics like cotton can trap sweat, become heavy, and cause you to overheat.
Dangers of Dehydration and Overhydration
When your body loses more fluids than you take in, dehydration occurs. Aside from extreme thirst, the first sign of dehydration is often muscle fatigue. If you do not replenish fluids the symptoms of dehydration become more dangerous and include headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, and unconsciousness. If you suspect you are becoming dehydrated, take a break, go to a cooler environment, and drink fluids.
Unfortunately, dehydration is not the only concern when it comes to fluid balance. When you take in more fluid than your body is losing in sweat, or you take in too much water without replacing lost electrolytes, blood sodium levels drop. This condition, called hyponatremia, causes symptoms similar to, and as dangerous as, dehydration. The ACSM recommends not
consuming more than one quart of fluid per hour during exercise to prevent overhydration.
A salad, baked sweet potato, or grilled chicken breast makes a great base for a healthy meal. Ensure that your nutritious meal doesn’t take a turn for the worse by watching out for these things that quickly make healthy food unhealthy.
Loading up on sauces
A drizzle of your favorite condiment is a good way to add flavor to food, but don’t use so much that it’s dripping. Cheese sauces and mayonnaise-based spreads can be loaded with calories and unhealthy fat. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, and pickle relishes may not pack the same calories, but they can be full of added sugar and sodium. If you prefer saucier foods, stick with lighter options like brown mustard or those that use fresh vegetables like pico de gallo.
Choosing a fat-free dressing
Fat-free salad dressings may be low in calories, but they can reduce the nutritional potential of your salad. Research shows that adding heart-healthy fat to a salad helps the body absorb the valuable fat soluble vitamins in the vegetables. Skip fat-free dressings and add a drizzle of olive oil with balsamic vinegar or a few slices of avocado.
Too many toppings
Cheese, butter and margarine, sour cream, dried fruits, and mayonnaise-based dressings are just a few of toppings that cause the calories and unhealthy fat to pile up. Sprinkle and drizzle lightly and try swapping them for healthier options like salsa, fresh herbs, olive oil, Greek yogurt, and fresh fruits.
Ignoring portion sizes
Controlling portion sizes is one of the best ways to enjoy your favorite foods and satisfy cravings without getting off track. One small cookie after dinner will likely only add 100 extra calories to your day, but an extra-large cookie is like eating a fourth meal. A grilled burger at the neighborhood cookout can work into a healthy eating plan, but a ½ pound restaurant burger loaded with toppings can contain a whole day’s worth of calories.
Store-bought sauces, marinades, and seasoning packets often have added sugar and excess sodium. It only takes a few minutes and a few extra ingredients to make your own. Whether it’s a sauce for a stir-fry, marinara, or a rub for grilled meats, making your own allows you to control ingredients that contain salt, sugar, and trans fat.
Passing up plain
Frozen and canned vegetables can be a healthy option, but added flavorings can ruin the nutritional benefits. Some frozen vegetables contain sauces and seasonings that add unhealthy fat and sodium. Canned foods can be high in sodium and sugar. Check to make sure that the vegetables are the only thing listed on the ingredient list and look for “low sodium,” “no salt added,” and “low sugar.” This allows you to season the food to your tastes, often reducing excess calories, fat, sodium, and sugar.
All berries are rich in antioxidants, but blackberries are gaining attention for their full nutrient content. They contain gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, which are all associated with protecting against cancer as well as having anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
All types of cherries do their part to protect health. Sweet cherries provide potassium that helps control blood pressure. Tart cherries are associated with reducing pain and inflammation. One study showed that tart cherries may help reduce post-exercise pain. Another study found that drinking two, eight ounce servings of tart cherry juice daily improved the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Tart cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to lower body temperature and improve sleep.
Cucumbers contain plant lignans, which are associated with reduced risks for cardiovascular disease and some cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins that may work to block the development of cancer cells.
Research shows that eggplants contain the phytonutrient nasunin that has been found to protect cell membranes from damage. In animal studies, juice made from eggplants reduced blood cholesterol and improved blood flow. These results were attributed to the nasunin and other phytonutrients in the vegetable.
Lycopene is well known for its cancer-fighting properties, but it was once thought that this phytochemical was only found in red tomatoes. New research has revealed that tomatoes in varying shades of orange also contain beneficial amounts of lycopene. This is good news as more varieties and colors of heirloom tomatoes grow in popularity. Tomatoes also have the potential to improve heart health. Studies have shown that consuming fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts may reduce total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Capsaicin is an antioxidant responsible for the heat in hot peppers. A hotter pepper indicates higher antioxidant levels. Capsaicin has been found to produce endorphins, or feel good hormones. Some research shows it may also help fight cancer. Capsaicin has also been found to reduce appetite and raise body temperature, which could be beneficial for weight loss.
Purple or blue potatoes are full of flavonoids that have been linked to fighting heart disease and cancer. One study found that eating plain, microwaved purple potatoes two times per day lowered blood pressure. These results have been attributed to the colorful potato’s high concentration of antioxidants.
Red Bell Peppers
While bell peppers contain very small amounts of capsaicin, they are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids that act as antioxidants. Research has revealed that bell peppers are also a source for the cancer-fighting sulfur compounds most often associated with cruciferous vegetables.
Like tomatoes, the red flesh of watermelon is rich in the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. The more ripe and red the melon, the greater the concentration of the phytonutrient. Watermelon also contains citrulline. Citrulline is converted to arginine in the body, an amino acid that is important for cardiovascular health.
A summer squash, zucchini is loaded with carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with eye health. In addition to providing vitamin C, zucchini supplies B-complex vitamins, zinc, and magnesium, which all help regulate blood sugar levels.
Recent research shows that the cholesterol in eggs may not be as concerning as we once thought, but eggs continue to be a topic of nutritional debate. With constant conflicting views, you may question whether it’s okay to include them in a healthy eating plan. This is what credible health organizations have to say about eating eggs and your health.
Eggs, dietary cholesterol, and heart health
Past research suggested that dietary cholesterol was directly linked to increased blood cholesterol. More recent studies have shown mixed results with some showing no association at all. According to Harvard Medical School, a small amount of the cholesterol you eat may enter the blood, but blood cholesterol levels are more strongly influenced by saturated fat and trans fat intake. We now also know that the extent that the cholesterol in your diet increases blood cholesterol varies from person to person.
One chicken egg contains 180 to 215 milligrams of cholesterol depending on the size and source. All of this cholesterol is contained in the yolk. While one egg won’t exceed the recommended 300 milligrams per day suggested by the American Heart Association, people often eat more than one egg and combine eggs with other high cholesterol foods (bacon, sausage, cheese). In addition to being high in cholesterol, this is another reason that eggs have been discouraged for healthy eating.
How many eggs can I eat each week?
More recent research has led many health organizations to update their recommendations on eating eggs. The Mayo Clinic states that four egg yolks or fewer per week has not been found to increase heart disease risk. The Harvard School of Public Health states that up to one egg per day has not been found to increase risk. It also adds that eggs contain nutrients that are associated with decreased risk including protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin, and folate. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports that one egg a day can fit into a healthy eating plan if total daily cholesterol intake does not exceed 300 milligrams.
It’s important to point out that these recommendations are for most healthy adults. Research shows that eating whole eggs can increase heart disease risk in those with diabetes and those who have trouble controlling LDL-cholesterol.
Tips for incorporating eggs into a healthy eating plan
If you’d like to eat eggs, it’s still important to control your total cholesterol intake to meet health recommendations. These are a few ways you can enjoy eggs without going overboard.
If you don’t find one egg filling, add a few egg whites to your scramble or omelet to increase the amount of food in your meal. Egg whites do not contain any of the cholesterol, but they do provide lean protein.
Pair your egg with foods that contain little to no cholesterol. An egg sandwich made with two slices of whole grain bread, one egg, a slice of tomato, a slice of avocado and one teaspoon of whole grain mustard contains about 210 milligrams.
Foods from animal sources contain cholesterol. On the days you eat eggs, monitor your intake of meats, dairy and baked goods made with dairy and eggs to ensure you do not exceed 300 milligrams per day.
Afternoon snacks are important to curb hunger and increase nutrient intake, giving you the energy you need to finish the day strong and power through evening workouts. These snacks are packed with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean protein, vitamins, and minerals to keep you feeling your best.
Open-faced Avocado Sandwich
Avocado supplies heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. When eaten with whole grain bread, it makes a filling snack with both protein and fiber. Mash and spread ½ an avocado over 1 slice of 100% whole grain, sugar-free bread. Sprinkle with the juice from 1 wedge of lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Calories: 166
Easy Tuna Salad
Tuna canned in water mixed with a few seasonings creates a delicious, high protein spread for whole grain crackers or toasted bread. Mix one can (5 oz.) of drained tuna with 2 tablespoons of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, 1 sliced green onion, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt and black pepper to taste. For a touch of sweetness, add ¼ cup of diced purple grapes. Serve with slices of toasted whole wheat baguette. Calories (for ½ of the tuna salad only): 99
Quick Bean Salad
Beans are full of fiber and plant protein. When drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs you add heart-healthy fat and phytonutrients. You can choose any of your favorite canned beans and stir in flavorful additions like sliced green onion, diced bell pepper, cilantro, parsley, basil, and a pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, curry, or cumin. This is a snack you can make ahead of time, and pack to eat throughout the week. Combine 1 can (15 oz.) of rinsed and drained black beans with 1 diced red bell pepper and ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Stir in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of 1 lime. Season with ½ teaspoon of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Calories (¼ recipe): 119
Apple Cinnamon Cold Cereal
Unsweetened, whole grain cereal can be a great snack option, especially if you have a workout planned in a couple hours. This snack provides fiber and a little protein, but it is low in fat which may be easier on your stomach when you are ready to get moving. Combine ¾ cup of bran flakes with ½ a diced apple, an 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ cup non-fat milk. Calories: 178
Protein shakes and smoothies shouldn’t be reserved for breakfast. The balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat make them an ideal afternoon snack, too. All you really need for a great smoothie is a cup of your favorite frozen fruit and ½ to 1 cup of your choice of milk. Fresh fruit works well too, just add some ice if you prefer a thicker smoothie. Add fresh spinach leaves or herbs to boost vitamins and yogurt, almond meal, or nut butter to increase the protein. Try this Chocolate Strawberry Peanut Protein Shake. Calories: 300
Peanut Butter and Fresh Fruit Sandwich
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be a healthy snack, but jelly is often loaded with sugar giving you little of the nutritional benefit found in fruit. Skip the jelly and add fresh cut fruit like sliced strawberries, blueberries, or chopped banana over the top of the peanut butter. Spread 2 tablespoons of natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter over 1 slice of 100% whole grain, sugar-free bread. Top with 2 sliced strawberries and press gently so the berries stick to the peanut butter. Finish it off by topping with a second slice of the bread. Calories: 301