Winter Hydration

It’s an easy mistake to make: not hydrating enough during winter workouts.  The colder weather tends to dull our sense of thirst and water is less appealing in the cold. We typically don’t sweat as much.  It’s easy to assume you don’t need much, if any, water during a cold weather workout but you do!  If you are over dressed you may be sweating even more than you would during a workout in warmer temps.  Your body also loses fluid through respiration, and this is magnified with heavy breathing in the cold.

So who cares? Well you, hopefully.  Studies have shown that more than a 2% loss of body weight from fluids can hamper performance.  Not to mention that water is an essential nutrient to the human body, involved in 98% of all bodily reactions.  You may also feel physically unwell if you are chronically dehydrated.

So how do you know if you are dehydrated after a workout? You may be able to tell by your urine color and volume. If it’s dark and concentrated you are likely dehydrated.  If you barely have any urine to expel despite not peeing in a long time you are definitely dehydrated!  Ideally your urine should be almost clear to pale yellow. Some vitamins and foods can alter the color of your urine, however, so if you are taking supplements be aware that they may be part of the discoloration.  Same with beets and beet juice, which can make your urine pink!   If you are dehydrated you may also notice that you feel more tired or fatigued than usual after your workout.  If the dehydration is extreme you may feel dizzy or nauseous.

How much water do you need during cold weather workouts?  Fluid recommendations vary but generally fall within the range of 6-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes (18-48 oz per hour) during exercise.  That’s a pretty wide range.  You don’t want to over-hydrate either, or you risk uncomfortable stomach sloshing, excessive bathroom breaks or even dangerous hyponatremia in rare cases.  The best way to figure out how much fluid you specifically need is by doing a sweat rate test.   To do this, weigh yourself naked before your workout.  Then complete a 60 minute run or ride without eating or drinking anything during the activity.  Do not use the bathroom during this hour either. Once you are done immediately weigh yourself again, naked of course.  Take the difference between your starting and finishing weights (remember there are 16 ounces in 1 pound).  That is your sweat rate in ounces per hour.  So for instance if you weighed 1.5 pounds less after a 1 hour run you should aim to drink 24 oz per hour (16×1.5= 24).  If your workout will last longer than 60-90 minutes consider adding a sports drink for carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement.  Water is enough for anything shorter.

Remember that your sweat rate will be slightly different during different conditions, at different intensities, and during different activites, so you may want to do this test several times under a variety of conditions.  For instance, if you are at altitude, say cross country skiing, you need even more water than at lower elevations.  At the very least do the sweat rate test once in the summer and once in the winter so you can pinpoint differences in your sweat rate during those seasons.

Struggling to meet your fluid needs now that you know them? Try using room temperature water during workouts since cold water is certainly not appealing when your body is already cold. Adding flavor can sometimes help make water more appealing, so try throwing a lemon wedge, cucumber slice, or splash of sports drink into your bottle.  You can also use warm beverages such as hot chocolate or soup broth for your post workout fluid replacement (or during if your stomach can handle it).  Try taking small sips frequently instead of chugging a bunch at once.  It might help initially to actually set a goal and keep an eye on your watch, such as committing to taking a couple of sips every 5 minutes.

It’s also important to start with good hydration throughout the day.  You may have heard the “8 glasses per day” (64 oz) recommendation, but that’s not enough for everyone.  To roughly calculate how many ounces of fluid you need per day take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That’s how about how many ounces you need just for daily life, not including exercise.  So, for example, a 135 pound athlete would need about 67.5 oz a day.  For exercise you need more.   And that’s just a rough estimate. One of the best ways to know if you are hydrated is to pay attention to your urine color. If it’s anything more than pale yellow you need more water. If you can smell it you really need more water! So drink up!

Happy hydrating!

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Product Review: Energy Gels

photo(12)I’ve admitted this before, but I feel like a kid in a candy store when I go to the sports nutrition section of REI.  I guess it’s because I’m a sports dietitian and an athlete, but I find all of the product options exciting and interesting.  Gels, bars, waffles, chews, beans, powders…there is so much to try, I just can’t wait for my next run or ride to test out something new (and maybe better than what I’m already doing).  I can, however, see how it might be completely overwhelming for someone not as much of a sports nutrition nerd as me.  So let’s break it down, starting with energy gels.  Gels are one of my personal favorite sports nutrition products because of their ease and digestibility.  They are easy to carry and easy to digest.  If you prefer real food during exercise and it works with your stomach great, but if not gels might just be your best bet.  Below is a product comparison of four of the most popular energy gel brands on the market .  Each obviously varies slightly by flavor.  The descriptions below are based on my favorite flavors of each brand, which are noted under the product column.

Product Price (varies by retailer) Nutrition Breakdown and Ingredients (per gel) Taste and Texture(5 = paste, 1= water) Overall Rating(5= awesome, 1= awful)
 Clif Shot (CS) Citrus $1.25 per gel (at REI)$29.99 for 24 pack (on Clif Bar website)  100 calories24 grams carb90 mg sodium

0, 25, 50 mg caffeine options

Made with maltrodextrin and cane syrup.

90% organic

3.5- CS is a thicker texture than HS and PG and about equal with Gu.I find it too thick to swallow if I am exercising intensely (like mountain running) but use it on less intense runs and rides.  The taste is great! Citrus tastes like Mountain Dew. 4- Clif Shot is one of my favorite products despite the slightly thick consistency.  It seems to digest well and it has a decent amount of sodium compared to HS and Gu.
 Gu (Cu) Peanut Butter

 

$1.35 per gel (at REI)$31.50 for 24 pack(on Gu website) 100 calories20 grams carb65 mg sodium

0, 20, 40 mg caffeine options

Peanut butter flavor has 1.5 gram fat and 1 gram protein

Made with maltordextrin and fructose.

4- The peanut butter flavor is thicker than the others, but Gu is generally more thick than PG or HS.I find the peanut butter Gu too thick to use when I’m running, but love it when I’m cycling.  The taste is great- peanut buttery and slightly sweet! 4- Although I love the flavor the peanut butter gel is super thick and it’s hard to get all of it out of the package without using your teeth.
 Honey Stinger    (HS) Fruit Smoothie $1.35 per gel$1.39 per gel (organic)$32.40 per 24 pack

$33.36 per 24 pack (organic) (on Honey Stinger website)

 

100 calories23 gram carb50 mg sodium

0 or 31 mg caffeine options

Made with tapioca syrup and honey.

3- HS has a thinner texture than Gu or CS but thicker than PG. I like all of the fruit flavors. 4- Great taste and texture but less caffeine options and less sodium than the others.
 Power Gel (PG) Tangerine

 

$1.25 per gel (at REI)$30.00 for 24 pack(on PowerBar website) 110 calories27 grams carb200 mg sodium

0, 25, 50 gram caffeine options

Made with maltodextrin and fructose.

2- PG is significantly more watery than the other brands. That’s why it’s my go to for trail runs. 4-I like that PG has more sodium than the others since I believe sodium is critical for endurance exercise.  The consistency makes it easy to get down during intense exercise.
Winners:  Prices are pretty comparable per gel.  If you want to break it down to price per gram of carbohydrate Power Gel wins. -Each gel has 2 or more carbohydrate sources in it, which is good as this has been shown to improve carbohydrate uptake and utilization in working muscles.-Honey Stinger and Clif are more organic if that is a concern.-Power Gel has more sodium which is good if you are a heavy sweater. Each brand has flavors that I think taste good. The texture is more of a preference thing.  I like the texture of PG best but the flavors of the others slightly better. Who am I kidding, I like them all! My overall winner is PowerGel though due to best price, more sodium, and good texture for strenuous exercise.  That being said, it’s important to experiment and find what works best for you!

Why I’m Going Bananas for Bananas

bananaThe poor banana.  It gets so much bad press.  High carb! High sugar! Many diets shun the banana.  I get that it’s not the most exotic or exciting fruit.  It might even be considered a little boring, especially with all the pomegranate, acai, mangosteen madness the past few years.  I’ve always been against labeling foods as “super foods” so it’s no wonder that I don’t put bananas lower on the nutrition totem pole than any other fruit (does anyone really eat mangosteen anyway?!)   I admit I also tend to root for the underdog, but the banana really has a lot going for it. Sure it’s not a glamorous fruit, but there is still so much to love.

I have to admit that I too had forgotten about the banana.  I’m not even sure why, but I probably went several years without buying a single one!  It wasn’t on purpose, I was just distracted by other, more thrilling fruits I guess.  I came back to the banana this summer though.   I was trying to up my fruit and veggie intake and also on the lookout for new, easily digested foods to integrate into my pre-workout meals and snacks.  The banana was my perfect solution, and I’ve been buying them weekly ever since.  Below is why I like bananas, and hope you will too!

–          Bananas are portable and easy to eat. There are no messy seeds or juices and no utensils needed, making the banana a great on the go snack.  They are also easy to shove in a bike jersey pocket! (Tip: consider pre-peeling the banana if your bike handling skills aren’t impeccable).

–          Bananas are easily digested and a good source of carbohydrate, making them a great food to consume immediately before and during exercise.  They are a great alternative to gels, bars, and chews for athletes wanting to use real food instead of, or in addition to sport nutrition products. One medium banana provides about 30 grams of carbs, which is comparable to one gel.

–          Bananas are high in nutrition.  Bananas are commonly known for being high potassium, but they are also great sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber!

–          Bananas are cost effective.  Typically costing less than $1/pound even for the organic kind, bananas aren’t gonna break the bank.  It’s also nice that you can buy just a few at a time so that you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you get around to eating them.

–          Bananas may help with weight management.  Bananas are high in resistant starch, a type of fiber that is not easily digested and is thought to promote feeling satiated and  improve glycemic control (aka stabilize blood sugars).  Some studies have linked diets high in resistant starch to lower body weight, but the jury is still out so don’t over do it with your banana intake.  Eat your bananas uncooked to get the full benefits of resistant starch.

–          Banana’s are super versatile and make an awesome addition to all sorts of meals and snacks:

  • Breakfast: slice up a banana and add it to your morning cereal or oatmeal
  • Snacks: add sliced bananas to Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, or top a slice of whole wheat toast with banana and your favorite nut butter (that is also one of my go to pre-race breakfasts!)
  • Lunch: make a wrap with 1 whole wheat wrap, peanut or almond butter, sliced banana, and a drizzle of honey for the perfect on the go lunch
  • Dinner: spice up a traditional Hawaiian pizza by adding sliced banana
  • Post workout: make a recovery smoothie by blending 8 oz low fat chocolate milk with 1 frozen banana.
  • Dessert: slice a banana and fill the inside with a tablespoon or two of chocolate chips or bits of dark chocolate. Pop in the oven until the chocolate melts. Bonus points if you have  a campfire to make this over!

So you see, really bananas are an athlete’s best friend.  Eat up!