With the weather warming up and the opportunity to workout outdoors increasing, it becomes everso more important to make sure you are not only nourishing your body but also staying well hydrated. Dehydration during exercise can lead to feelings of early fatigue, dizziness, nausea, cramps, headaches and, in extreme situations, passing out, vomiting, strokes and organ failure.
Heat is a big factor that influences and contributes to early dehydration. This is because, as the body heats up, it uses up fluid to cool you down. That’s why it’s so important to understand the basics of hydration as well as the foods you can consume to help you stay hydrated and nourished during the hot summer months.
When it comes to staying hydrated, first consider your water intake. The recommended intake for water is between 11.5 cups – 15.5 cups (2.7 to 3.7 liters) of water per day, for women and men, respectively. This also accounts for fluid from food, which we’ll get into later. The best way to tell if you’re hydrated is to monitor your urine! Aim to stay pale yellow all day.
However, it’s also important to know that hydration is so much more than drinking water. If you’re working out longer than 60 minutes or if you are a heavy sweater, you’ll need to replenish electrolytes too.
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that are important for balancing your pH levels. Electrolyte imbalance can cause changes in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and even seizures or nervous system disorders – which is why it’s important to pay attention to your hydration and fluid losses. During exercise, the two electrolytes you are most likely to lose are sodium and potassium. Magnesium and zinc are only lost during extreme, long events lasting several hours in the heat.
Sodium is important for fluid balance in the body and helps the nerves and muscles work properly. Most people already get more than the recommended intake of 2300mg salt/daily, because it’s in so many of our food sources (especially processed foods). Due to this, you likely do not need to worry about adding in more salt, unless you are training for an ultra endurance event like an ironman or marathon.
Potassium is important for muscle contraction and helping your heartbeat stay regular. You can get more potassium from bananas, potatoes, avocados, mushrooms, and beet greens.
In addition to adding sodium and potassium intra or post-workout, you can consider adding in the hydrating foods below throughout your day to help increase your fluid intake:
Top Hydrating Fruits
Top Hydrating Veggies
- Iceberg lettuce
- Bell peppers
If you have a specific endurance event you are training for, working with a sports dietitian to develop a hydration plan is recommended. However, if you are just looking to re-fuel after your daily workouts, consider adding in these hydrating foods and consuming a balance of foods containing the electrolytes mentioned above.