By Ellie Wilson, MS, RD
Senior Nutritionist, Price Chopper Supermarkets
I live just around the block from our local high school, and as we enter the home stretch of summer, I see the high school athletes back on the field. Summer is a wonderful time to be active, but heat can take a toll on how well we exercise. Good nutrition and hydration are both key to safe, strong sport and activity performances – for everyone pursuing sports and activities, during the warmer months and all year ‘round.
Fuel for muscles is essential – EAT BREAKFAST! Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel of muscles – get a variety of carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Breakfast ideas for carbohydrate sources include pancakes or waffles, toast, bagels, cereal, low fat granola bars, yogurt and milk. Timing is also important – fueling up early in the day for afternoon or early evening workouts, and the night before for early morning workouts.
Fluids are so important for summer activity – poor hydration can make or break any activity effort, but when combined with heat and sun, can set the stage for dangerous problems like heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Best practices for types of fluids to choose are water, if exercise will be moderate and 45 minutes or less in duration; sports drinks, if exercise will be intense or longer than 45 minutes. Start the day off with one or two glasses of water and keep a water bottle with you all day. Watch the clock and drink about 15-20 oz. of water or a sports drink two to three hours before exercise, as well as 7-10 ounces 15 minutes before and every 15 minutes or so during exercise. If early morning exercise is on your schedule, plan on including foods that have high water content in your dinner meal and snack the night before – potatoes, vegetables, fruits, fruit juices and milk are all nutrient-packed and contain water themselves.
Summer leagues are famous for tournaments – and no one can predict ahead of time how many games in a row you might play. Nutrition for muscle recovery is also important – get refueled immediately after a game or workout to take advantage of how hungry your muscles are to restock glycogen, the primary carbohydrate fuel muscles store. Your muscles will store more energy immediately after a workout than at other times. Chocolate milk is one of my favorite recovery recommendations, and planning ahead to have a yogurt and fruit or low-fat granola bar and juice after a workout ensures you are in great shape to continue the tournament.
A couple of last tips: Avoid fatty foods like cheeseburgers before workouts or competition and consider using a 100 percent fruit juice halfway through the game to replenish muscle energy quickly. Stay safe and have fun being active this summer!
LiveSmart supports the Classroom Enrichment Fund at the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region and is made possible by donations from St. Peter’s Health Partners and Price Chopper, with promotional services provided by the Times Union and WNYT/NewsChannel 13. LiveSmart is compiled by Helen Susan Edelman, Project Director. This project ensures 70,000 students and teachers in the Capital Region have equal access to news content during the school year.