Sports Nutrition Tip for the Month: Sports Drinks and Nutrient-Enhanced Waters or Something Else?
Source: Nutrition 411
Today’s athlete is bombarded by an overwhelming number of sports drinks each claiming benefits that span from improved performance and recover to super-rehydration. In general, sports drinks contain carbohydrates (usually in the form of sugar), vitamins, and electrolytes. Gatorade cornered the market back in the mid-1960’s and was one of the first beverages of its kind geared towards athletes. Since then, the market has exploded with an inordinate amount of beverages with similar purpose. The newest drinks on the market claim to increase energy, provide better focus, and strengthen the immune system. How do you pick the one that is best for you? Or, is there an alternative?
Sports drinks are most beneficial for athletes who perform exercise for longer than 60 minutes. Exercise lasting less than 60 minutes (in normal weather conditions) will not result in a severe carbohydrate and electrolyte depletion, but it should be noted that athletes need to stay hydrated. In this case, water will suffice. During long training runs or endurance events, runners should hydrate with an electrolyte beverage. Electrolytes are important minerals (e.g., calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride) that help nerves function properly. Many foods contain electrolytes, but for pre-, during, and post-workout, it’s easier on the GI system to drink a fluid replacement than to eat food.
Choose a sports drink based on this criteria: contains about 16 g of carbohydrate per 8 oz (the carbohydrate should be in the form of simple sugars), contains a blend of electrolytes, not carbonated, and void of artificial colors and sweeteners. Be cautious of products that contain caffeine. Try a small amount and see how your body feels before you try it during a training run or race.
Here are some natural alternatives:
The juice of a lemon or lime into your water (lemons and limes naturally contain electrolytes)
A small splash of 100% juice into flat seltzer water or regular water
An equal amount of coconut water (contains sugars + electrolytes) with unsweetened green tea or yerba mate ** Katina’s top pick
Nutrient Spotlight: Fiber
Source: Harvard School of Public Health
Fiber is a component that cannot be broken down in the body, but it plays a vital role in regulating hunger, stabilizing blood sugar, and keeping digestion optimal. The United States recommended daily amount for fiber is 20-30 g for adolescents and adults. Sadly, most Americans do not get his amount. Fiber is found in most fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Eating fiber at every meal guarantees you will feel fuller longer and keep bowels regular.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is easily dissolved in water which helps to lower blood sugar and control cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber are oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, and blueberries. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps propel food through the digestive system which promotes regularity. Sources of insoluble fiber are wheat, whole wheat bread, brown rice, legumes, whole grain couscous, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Katina’s Note: If you are prone to having a nervous belly before races, reduce your fiber intake leading up to race day. If you normally eat, 30 + g of fiber per day, eat no more than 20 g of fiber for 2-3 days before a race. Immediately post-race, also avoid food that is high in fiber. Drink a smoothie or a blended drink with protein and carbs to push in nutrients necessary for recovery. By doing so, the GI system can easily absorb this nutrition without being taxed. Within 2 hours, have a regular meal and return to normal eating habits.