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Sports drinks, sodium & steamy summer sports

Sports drinks, sodium & steamy summer sports

Staying well hydrated is key to being able to survive steamy summer exercise. Athletes who fail to drink enough end up feeling needlessly tired, grumpy, headachy and irritable. The goal: Drink enough so that you need to urinate at least every four hours. That means, you should need to go to the bathroom before each meal (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner).

Should you drink water or sports drink to maintain proper hydration? Here’s what you need to know: Continue Reading

Early morning summer runs

Early morning summer runs

Dear Nancy,

I am preparing for a Fall marathon. I live in South Carolina. I struggle with the heat and humidity. I typically run early in the morning, but the weather can still be hot and humid then.

When my running club meets at 5:00 a.m. for long runs, I have trouble getting in enough fuel. I take energy tablets beforehand, and gels at 2, 4 and 6 miles, as well as drink water until my stomach is loaded, But I am still dizzy the last two to three miles. I sweat more than others, so I worry about getting dehydrated. Suggestions?

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Do you spend too much time obsessing about your body?

Although you might think you know what you look like, think again. You likely have a distorted view of yourself. Your “fat thighs” might not really be so fat, after all. And your frizzy hair may look nicely curly to someone else. You just don’t know what you don’t know. And does anyone else even notice (or care)? Maybe your relationship with your body is the true problem, and not your body itself? Continue Reading

Do you feel too tired, too often?

Do you feel too tired, too often?

If you feel too tired, too often, you might want to learn from this case study. Tom, a 45-year-old hard-core gym-rat met with me because he wanted to have more energy, eat better, and ideally lose a few pounds of excess body fat. Here is his spreadsheet for a typical day of food and exercise:

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Muscle cramps: Do they cramp your style?

Muscle cramps: Do they cramp your style?

     What causes muscles cramps? How can we prevent them? And why, when a group of athletes are doing the same amount of exercise in the same conditions, do some athletes cramp and others do not?

Speaking at the American Medical Athletic Associations’ Sports Medicine Conference prior to the Boston Marathon, exercise physiologist Bob Murray PhD reported those questions are hard to answer because studying spontaneous muscle cramps is difficult. It’s hard to make a muscle cramp on demand. Plus, cramps generally dissipate within seconds or minutes, before they can be studied.

We do know there are different types of muscle cramps: some are associated with exercise, others happen at night. Some cramps “twitch,” others as “stiff.” But all are painful and accompanied by a knotting of the muscle. About 68% of triathletes and 30% to 50% of runners complain about muscle cramps during exercise, and 50% of runners complain about leg cramps happening at night, at least once a week.

We also know that exercise-associated muscle cramps tend to occur in active muscles that are fatigued, hyperthermic (overheated), and dehydrated. The nerves that control muscle contractions seem to stop functioning normally. Hence, the current thinking is cramps are related to the nervous system failing to tell the muscle to contracting.

What are some ways to get muscle to stop cramping? In some people, some of the time, relief is found with stretching, better hydration, increased salt intake, massage, pinching the upper lip, and spicy/bitter/pungent foods like pickle juice, mustard, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, and quinine. How pickle juice and other pungent foods work is unknown, but believed to trigger an inhibitory neural (nerve) reflex that reduces activity in the cramping muscle.

Research with a product called #itsthenerve (www.itstheneve.com) suggests this combination of pungent foods can abate muscle cramps (fewer cramps, shorter duration). Cramp-prone athletes who have taken the product offer positive testimonials. Whether reduced cramping is due to placebo or the product, who knows! But the cramp-prone athletes they don’t care; their cramps are gone!

Hydration Update: Sports drinks, Sweat Rate & Caffeine

Hydration Update: Sports drinks, Sweat Rate & Caffeine

I always like to attend (and present at) sports medicine conferences. Before the Boston Marathon, I enjoyed the American Medical Athletic Association’s sports medicine meeting and particularly liked the hydration talk presented by Brendon McDermott PhD ATC, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas.  Here are some key pointers:

• The main audience for sports drinks is not athletes but the average person, especially kids. The selling of sports drinks is a big business, targeted to a much larger audience than athletes to get many more sales. Yet, proper hydration is indeed an issue for athletes. McDermott, who is chair of the upcoming National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for the Physically Active, reported that 65% to 85% of athletes come to a game or practice underhydrated.

• Athletes, particularly those who sweat heavily, learn their sweat rate by weighing themselves (nude) before and after a one-hour workout. Any weight loss reflects water (sweat) loss. Normal thirst prompts athletes to replace only 2/3 of what gets lost during exercise.

• If your weight drops two pounds during a workout, you have lost 32 ounces (one quart) of sweat. Some athletes may lose only half a quart (16 ounces) of sweat during an hour-long workout; others may lose four quarts. Your goal should be to lose less than 2% of your body weight during exercise (three pounds for a 150-pound athlete). Weighing IN and weighing OUT is a good way to learn how well you balance your fluid intake.

• The problem with inadequate fluid replacement is, as you get dehydrated, you feel worse, slow down, and perform worse. While many people think that dehydration causes internal body temperature to rise, McDermott said that is not always the case. The intensity of exercise is the main predictor of body temperature. You can be well-hydrated but still get over-heated.

• Caffeine is not dehydrating. Yes, caffeine increases short-term urine production, but it does not lead to dehydration. Here’s why: Caffeine stimulates the bladder to contract; this increases the urge to urinate. This water (urine) in your bladder has already been used by your body. Hence, coffee stimulates the bladder to empty sooner —but you do not need more fluid than if you had consumed a caffeine-free beverage.

 

For more information, read the chapter on Fluids in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Weight fluctuations

Weight fluctuations

Nancy, my weight fluctuates a lot — from 122 pounds in the morning to 127 pounds in the afternoon. Is that normal?

Yes, you can easily gain 5 pounds during a day — but it’s not 5 pounds of fat. It’s 5 pounds of water and food. Just drinking a 16-ounce bottle of plain water will contribute to one pound of weight-gain on the scale. That’s because your stomach is like a balloon: light when filled with air, heavy when filled with water. Hence, the only time to weigh yourself to get a true weight is first thing in the morning, after you have gone to the bathroom and before you eat or drink anything. Not at the end of the day.

If you compulsively weigh yourself two or three times a day, give it up! You won’t benefit from driving yourself crazy by seeing your weight go higher and higher during the day. You might want to hide the scale in the trunk of your car, and use it only once a week, if at all. Your better bet is to judge weight changes by how you feel, if your clothes are looser, and if you see less fat in the mirror.

What to eat the week before the Boston Marathon

What to eat the week before the Boston Marathon

Your training may be done, but your can still enhance your performance by eating wisely, Here are answers to some questions you might have about how to eat the week before the marathon.

Question: I’m getting nervous about what to eat the week before the Boston Marathon, as well as what to eat on race day. Should I be carb-loading or doing something different??? Continue Reading

Considering Quinoa ?

Considering Quinoa ?

Written by guest blogger Emily McGourty

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, originated in South America, and has gained popularity in the United States over the past few years. Though it is considered a grain, quinoa is technically in the same family as leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. It looks and tastes like a cross between rice and couscous, but has a slightly nutty flavor. Continue Reading

Fueling during long runs

Fueling during long runs

Nancy, how many calories should I try to consume during my long training runs, in preparation for my first marathon? I will be out there for at least four hours…

Answer: Each person’s body is so different, so it’s hard to make precise fueling rules. In general, a heavier person needs more calories than a lighter person, and some runners can tolerate more fuel than others. Here is a target plan: Continue Reading

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