"I know I can drink water to stay hydrated during the summer, but are there certain foods I should eat and avoid to help me stay hydrated?"
Sodium and protein are two nutrients that help you absorb fluids following exercise. During the summer it is easy to become dehydrated, even during short workouts. Therefore, it’s important to rehydrate immediately following any exercise with water, sodium and protein. The key is to include plenty of water with a balanced meal that includes salt, within about 30 minutes of finishing exercise.
While sodium is an important electrolyte, salty foods are often highly processed and contain unhealthful nutrients. After exercise is a time when excellent food selection will pay off. To get the most out of recovery foods, choose natural and unprocessed foods. Natural foods may not be high enough in sodium to impact rehydration, therefore the addition of sea salt to the meal will increase sodium content and enhance hydration. For example, scrambled eggs, with pico de gallo, corn tortillas, black beans and avocado sprinkled with sea salt would be a delicious, balanced recovery meal that contains all the necessary nutrients to re-hydrate following exercise and will facilitate hydration through the rest of the day. You can read more about naturally occurring sodium in a previous Ask A Nutritionist column.
Protein works with sodium to improve fluid retention in the post-workout period, but excessive dietary protein can actually worsen dehydration. Thus, a little goes a long way with protein. About 20 to 30 grams of protein can be absorbed from one meal, which is the amount of protein found in 3 eggs, 3 ounces of poultry or fish or about 3/4 block of extra firm tofu. While up to 30 grams of protein at one time, it takes much less to stimulate protein synthesis and to absorb fluids. So, include protein following workouts but don’t go crazy with it. You don’t need protein powder or protein bars to get what you need.
To maintain hydration, are there foods to avoid? Not really. There are a variety of foods that are said to act as diuretics, such as eggplant, celery or cranberry, but the effect of these foods on overall fluid balanced is minimal. There is no need to avoid any particular food in efforts of preventing dehydration.
Interestingly, water acts as a diuretic. As water intake increased, the amount of water is lost in urine also increases. In order to maintain optimal fluid balance, water is necessary but shouldn’t be over consumed, particularly without adequate sodium. Drink enough water throughout the day to maintain light colored urine, but avoid clear urine.
Please remember that the information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical or nutritional advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this article.
Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD is an open-minded, progressive dietitian that blends evidence based nutritional science with the principals of intuitive eating and cutting-edge functional medicine. Hana specializes in sport nutrition, digestive health, fertility, hormonal health and eating disorders. Visit www.NourishingRestuls.com to explore, read, cook and reach out!