Hydrating Foods for Fitness

Since it’s the hottest month of the year, my next Fit Kitchen video is all about fluids and hydrating foods! {miss summer snacking?} Staying hydrated is crucial for your health. In the summer heat (hey, August!) it’s easy to lose excess fluid. Water is extremely important for many functions such as digestion, protecting tissues, spinal cord and joints, regulating body temperature, ensuring mental productivity and enabling maximum physical performance. Without enough water all of these functions can become compromised. Not consuming enough water can lead to cramping, headaches, fatigue, heat exhaustion, strokes, organ failure, and more

A note for athletes and active individuals

Water intake significantly impacts performance. Water helps electrolytes dissolve so that they can trigger muscle contractions. It’s important to note that when we sweat, we need to not only replace water, but also the sodium lost. Another way for athletes to ensure hydration is by eating adequate carbohydrates. Each gram of carbohydrate stored in the body holds on to 3 ml of fluid – so without adequate carbohydrate, you’ll be losing more fluid than you’d like. If anyone needs a sports drink, it’s definitely you!

What about other electrolytes?

Contrary to popular belief… or what companies are marketing… losses of other minerals, such as zinc and magnesium, only occur in significant amounts for those participating in ultra-endurance activities, or activities lasting several hours in the heat. Will it hurt to supplement with low dose electrolyte blends? No, but it may also be a waste of money.

How Much Fluid Is Enough?

The old rule of thumb recommending “8 cups a day (or 64 oz)” may be a bit outdated as it doesn’t account for variation in heat, sweat loss, different body types, or activity level. The Dietary Reference Intake for water is between 91 and 125 fluid ounces (2.7 to 3.7 liters) of water per day for adults (and this includes fluid obtained from foods!)

Like most things, hydration recommendations need to be individualized. Providing individualized recommendations has even been shown to improve outcomes in athletes.

How To Assess Fluid Status

It can be challenging to notice both appetite and thirst cues in the heat and during or after exercise. Your best daily indicator of hydration status? Obviously, it’s the color of your pee! In the morning, you’ll want it to be “straw like” in color, but a transparent yellow is OK, too. Once you get into bright yellow and even iced tea territory, you know it’s time to cut back on exercise, get out of the heat, and start hydrating. 

How To Hydrate

In addition to water, plenty of other beverages contribute to your fluid intake daily, including tea, milk and milk alternatives, 100% fruit juices, seltzer and even your first 1-2 cups of coffee! Choosing hydrating foods, like fruits and vegetables, makes staying hydrated even easier though, since they also contain carbohydrates that will help you maintain fluid balance.

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Hydrating Foods To Help You Meet The Recommendation 

Fruits: snack on oranges or grapefruit, and add strawberries to your favorite yogurt. You can even turn watermelon and pineapple into sports drinks or slushes by blending in a dash of salt, too)

Amount of water in popular fruits:

Veggies: When you’re building a salad, top fluid rich lettuces with tomatoes, radishes, and carrots. Then, throw zucchini, peppers, onions and even cruciferous veggies on the grill when you’re cooking your favorite proteins.

Amount of water in popular veggies:

Recipes: you can always squeeze some veggies in with fruit into a refreshing summer smoothie, or homemade smoothie popsicle.

Check out more hydrating recipes here:

Note that alcohol is a diuretic, causing the body to release water which leads to dehydration. This is why it’s especially important to be cautious when drinking in the summer heat. I suggest drinking 8 oz of water in between each alcohol beverage.

So what’s the first step you’re taking to improve hydration?

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