Hydration is critical to achieve optimal fitness, especially for active individuals. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your performance by decreasing your sweat rate and blood volume, as well as raising your core temperature and muscle-glycogen use. A recent study from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that even mild dehydration (1.5 percent loss of body fluid volume) alters both energy and mood.Is this you? Signs of dehydration include headaches, dizziness, sluggishness, stress, and of course, thirst. Another telltale sign is the color of your urine. Dark yellow indicates you need to drink up—the clearer, the better.
What to do: Don’t get thirsty. If you’re feeling even a bit parched, you’re up to two percent dehydrated, and may already start to experience the cognitive effects of dehydration. Break the day into four blocks of time (wake up to mid-morning, mid-morning to lunch, lunch time to mid-afternoon, and mid-afternoon to evening) and drink 16 ounces (two cups) of water during each block. Set an alarm or download the Daily Water app to remind yourself to sip regularly.
A five percent loss of total body weight in H20 decreases optimal work capacity by up to 30 percent.
With so many products marketed to the health-conscious consumer, it’s not always easy to determine which brands are legitimately healthful. Some store-bought snacks that contain buzz words such as “all natural”, “gluten-free”, or “low-carb” can be highly processed, often containing hydrogenated oils, and in some cases, as much sugar as a can of cola. Smoothies, especially the store-bought variety, are another common calorie-buster, some packing over 650 sneaky calories thanks to added sugars and syrups. These “healthy” foods can raise your insulin levels causing energy crashes and over time, weight gain. What’s more, they can put your digestive organs and skeletal muscles into a battle for blood flow, making getting through your workout feel like an exercise in futility.Is this you? Stomach cramps or pains, nausea, bloating and other signs of digestive distress after noshing a protein bar, energy gel, juice bar concoction or other packaged health food could indicate you’re overdoing them, or that you’re sensitive to a particular ingredient.
What to do: Read labels carefully. Look for ingredients such as whole grains, nuts, fruit, and natural sweeteners (such as organic honey or pure maple syrup). Avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial coloring and flavors. If it has at least five grams of fiber (this is a good sign that the bar has complex carbohydrates), less than eight grams of sugar (eight grams equals two teaspoons), and zero grams of trans fats, it’s probably a good choice. Better yet, plan ahead and prepare a snack—even the best bars can’t beat a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts in terms of nutrition.
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