Summer is the favorite season of many in these parts. We are lucky to be able to go for a runs or cycle around our picturesque town and swim in the Sound.
By Lee Sandford
Summer is the favorite season of many in these parts. We are lucky to be able to go for a runs or cycle around our picturesque town and swim in the Sound. We can then sit on a deck chair all afternoon because we’ve earned it. After that, it’s hard to resist a cocktail or cold beer at sundown with friends. It’s summer after all!
All of these activities, even relaxing by the shore, are dehydrating in the hot temperatures we have experienced this summer. Add humidity and you sweat even more, but it stays on your skin as opposed to evaporating, therefore failing to cool you down, in turn making you sweat more. Even mild dehydration is uncomfortable and affects our sleep, brainpower, and energy levels.
Most of us have heard that we should drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. While there are many more sophisticated and accurate ways of calculating the amount of water, they all come back to suggesting that eight glasses is a good approximation.
On more sedentary days, water and foods in your diet that contain water, like fruit and vegetables, should be sufficient to keep you hydrated. However, on days when you have exercised at more than moderate intensity, you will also have lost sodium, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, and there is ongoing debate regarding the best drink to replace them.
A popular go-to is an energy drink like Gatorade. My son’s fifth grade teacher (shout out to Mr. Burkhardt, Milton School) would only allow water in the classroom and if sports drinks appeared he’d explain, “These drinks were developed for 250-pound football players who can lose up to 10 pounds in a training session. You are 80-pound fifth-graders sitting in a classroom. You are not losing the same amount of electrolytes as professional athletes.” That tends to be my view, too. I only drink Gatorade if I am really parched and can’t get enough water into me fast enough. One of the benefits is that the sugar and taste make it easier to drink more of. You often see it offered at youth events because children are more likely to pick it up than water.
The case for milk, and/or chocolate milk, as a post-workout drink has been put forward for the last few years. The high water content replaces lost fluids, and the carbohydrates and protein help with muscle repair, especially important after a workout involving resistance training. Chocolate milk is my drink of the moment after a long run, having read and believed the research. There is also a psychological reason for the preference: I like to think the calcium is giving my hardworking bones and joints a treat, too!
A recent piece of research put forward the case for bananas as your post-workout “drink”. The study indicated this easily obtained fruit not only provides athletes with the same benefits as sports drinks, but also has additional advantages. In the study, trained cyclists consumed either half a banana or drank a cup of a carbohydrate-based drink every 15 minutes during a simulated road race, lasting approximately three hours. Performance was the same across the board, but blood samples taken before and after exercise showed the bananas provided the cyclists with antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6. Additionally, the bananas contain a healthier blend of sugars than the drinks.
So, you can see what works for you and take your pick, but if the research and debate is too complicated for you, stick to the following advice from The American Academy of Sports Medicine:
1) Drink one or more teaspoons of fluid per every two pounds of body weight a few hours before you exercise.
2) If needed, eat a lightly salted snack or small meal containing sodium a few hours before exercise to correct any electrolyte imbalances.
3) During exercise of more than one hour, a sports drink may be used to meet hydration, electrolyte, and carbohydrate needs.
4) Consume some carbohydrate energy (food or sports drink) to help fuel ongoing endurance exercise.
5) For short bouts of exercise in a hot, humid environment, you may benefit from a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution.