Hispanic woman drinking from squeeze bottle

Electrolytes That Will Help You Stay Hydrated & Perform Better

When athletes focus on their diet, carbohydrates, protein, and fats come to mind. But, what about electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals that help the body maintain fluid balance, regulate nerve impulse transmissions, and influence muscle contraction and relaxation. Any electrolyte disturbance can potentially hinder athletic performance and may lead to muscle weakness, muscle twitching, dehydration, and cramping.

Sodium chloride is the major electrolyte lost through sweat followed by smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. And therefore, sodium is generally recognized as the primary electrolyte that needs replacing during exercise. Consuming sodium during athletic performance helps to replace the sodium lost through while also helping prevent hyponatremia (a dangerous condition where the amount of sodium in the blood is lower than normal) and maintaining blood volume (this is especially important for athletes with low blood pressure). Sodium losses through sweat can vary tremendously between athletes with reported losses ranging from 0.2 grams of sodium per liter (1 liter = 4.23 cups) of sweat to over 12.5 grams of sodium per liter (12.5 grams of sodium is the amount in 5.4 teaspoons of salt) of sweat. Sweat sodium losses are dependent upon an athlete’s dietary sodium intake, sweat rate, adaptation to heat, and rehydration source (and how much sodium their during exercise beverage contains).

Hydrating with water alone can help prevent over-heating, but will not protect you against electrolyte imbalances. In fact, relying solely on water can dilute blood sodium levels and therefore contribute to hyponatremia. Popular sports drinks typically provide varying amounts of electrolytes though some athletes may need additional sodium to fully replenish sodium lost through sweat.

If you find that you need more sodium, start by adding 50 – 100 mg for every 8 oz. of fluid. So for instance, mix ½ packet Gatorlytes into a 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade or PowerAde (or similar sports drink).

Product Product Description Serving Size Electrolyte Content More Information
Gatorlytes Contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium for salty sweaters

Mix in water or other beverages

1 packet (3.4 grams) - Sodium: 780 mg

- Potassium: 400 mg

- Magnesium: 40 mg

-Contains no carbohydrate and is therefore an electrolyte replacement supplement only.

-Good option for those who need more sodium.

The Right Stuff -Electrolyte replacement designed as a pre-exercise hyperhydrator (to expand plasma volume via sodium fluid load)

-Liquid form

-Sweetened with Splenda

20 ml liquid -Sodium: 1,780 mg -NSF Certified for Sport

-Good option for “heavy sweaters” or athletes exercising in hot and humid environments (due to its high sodium content)

-Does not provide potassium, magnesium, and calcium

-The research listed on their website is less than impressive since they have never compared The Right Stuff against another electrolyte product with the same exact amount of sodium. Instead, the Right Stuff has been compared with low and no sodium conditions (the studies were not designed to truly test The Right Stuff but instead make the product look good).

NUUN -Electrolyte tablets

-Comes in 3 drink options: NUUN active hydration, U natural hydration, and NUUN all day hydration

-12 tablets in 1 tube

1 NUUN Active Hydration Tablet

NUUN All Day Hydration

NUUN U Natural Hydration

-Sodium: 360 mg

-Potassium: 100 mg

-Magnesium: 25 mg

-Calcium: 13 mg

- Sodium: 60 mg

- Potassium: 200 mg

- Magnesium: 20 mg

- Calcium: 0 mg

- Sodium: 180 mg

- Potassium: 77 mg

- Magnesium: 20 mg

- Calcium: 0 mg

-NUUN Active Hydration contains sorbitol which is a sugar alcohol that may cause GI (stomach) distress

-NUUN’s U natural hydration uses Stevia instead of sorbitol

-Contains no sugar

Hammer Endurolytes -Electrolyte capsule

-You can swallow the capsules hourly, or open them and mix your own amount into a water bottle

-Contains 50 mg of amino acid glycine to help neutralize the salty taste

2 capsules -Sodium: 80 mg

-Potassium: 50 mg

-Magnesium: 50 mg

-Calcium: 100 mg

-Hammer products are low in sodium.

-Xylitol is a common ingredient in Hammer products, which like all sugar alcohols, has the potential cause GI problems

Skratch -Electrolyte mix that can be added into water

-Has various products including Skratch Exercise Hydration mix

-Contains 80 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates

1 scoop (20 gm) Lemons and Limes Skratch exercise hydration mix -Sodium: 240 mg

-Potassium: 40 mg

-Magnesium: 24 mg

-Calcium: 10 mg

-1st ingredient is cane sugar

-Uses real fruit rather than artificial flavors or colorings

Klean Electrolytes -Electrolyte replacement in capsule form

-Recommend taking one to three supplements, depending on individual’s sweat rate, weight, and activity duration

1 capsule -Sodium: 40 mg

-Potassium: 25 mg

-Magnesium: 25 mg

-Calcium: 25 mg

-NSF Certified for Sport

-No adverse side effects have been reported

-Relatively low in sodium for an electrolyte supplement

Generation UCAN -UCAN has a sports drink mix, protein-enhanced drink mix, plain superstarch, and hydrate replacement

-UCAN hydrate is an electrolyte replacement

-Powder form

-No sugar and zero calorie

-Lemon lime flavor

-Sweetened with Stevia

1 packet of Generation UCAN Hydrate -Sodium: 300 mg

-Potassium: 100 mg

-Magnesium: 50 mg

-Calcium: 15 mg

- UCAN products contain a low glycemic modified starch

-UCAN hydrate contains no sugar and zero calories

- There is no research to suggest that UCAN is superior to typical sugars used during or after exercise. In fact, higher glycemic carbohydrates are preferable post exercise for replacing glycogen and decreasing muscle breakdown

Infinit Nutrition -Customize your own nutrition supplement

-Designs supplements for different needs

-ISIS Hydration has 220 calories and 55 g carbohydrate from maltodextrin and dextrose

1 packet of ISIS Hydration Ingredients can be customized to meet your needs or you can choose from one of their preset formulations including ISIS hydration which includes:

-Sodium: 325 mg

-Potassium: 94 mg

-Magnesium: 5 mg

-Calcium: 3 mg

-Can customize products flavor, carbohydrate, calories, electrolytes, protein, amino acids, and caffeine

-Or you can shop present formulas

Appetizers

Avoid Packing on the Pounds this Holiday Season

If holiday parties tempt your desire to overindulge in mouth-watering creamy dips, comforting homemade casseroles and delectable desserts, you may find yourself panicking by the end of December and ready to crash diet on January 1st. Instead of doing something stupid (crash dieting), try a more sensible approach to avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season while still enjoying yourself. Follow these 3 tips for keeping calories in check this holiday season:

  1. Think “strategic placement” at holiday parties. While other people may worry about locating themselves near the life of the party, locate yourself away from the chip and dip bowl, especially if a meal will be served. Grab a small plate with a couple of appetizers, then walk away. Chances are you’ll get caught up in a conversation which will prevent the temptation to over-indulge in extra calories. Consider strategic placement strategy when filing your plate as well. Make half of your plate fresh fruits and veggies and the other half those higher calorie items that you can’t wait to dig into.
  1. Make smart swaps to traditional favorites. Admittedly, the holidays aren’t the best time to try an entirely different approach to cherished family menus, but you can make improvements. Try swapping reduce fat dairy for regular dairy, broth based soups instead of creamy versions and lighter versions of other ingredients as well. In addition, try adding grated vegetables (zucchini, carrots and onions often work well) in place of some ground meat in meat-based dishes.
    Not only will this enhance the nutrition value of your dish but it will also improve the flavor.
  1. Don’t drink away all your good efforts. No matter how great your strategy is for choosing healthier foods at the holidays, alcoholic drinks can be your calorie downfall. The best solution: alternate your beverages with a glass of water or club soda. You’ll stay better hydrated, keep calories in check and avoid a hangover. If plain water doesn’t sound very appealing, try sparkling water or club soda with a splash of 100% juice and a twist of lime. This simple strategy will help you reduce your calories and help you stay hydrated thereby preventing a hangover the next day. Also, if you are a wine drinker, take out a liquid measuring cup and measure 4 oz. of wine and pour it into a wine glass so you know what one serving of wine looks like. It is considerably smaller than you may think.
Alcohol celebration

Drink Up (Alcohol) and Shortcut Muscle Growth and Recovery

After making the game winning catch, a leaping single-handed snatch with just a few seconds left on the clock, its time to celebrate and drinks are on the house. And, you deserve a few beers or a little CÎROC® right?

Before you reach for that second (or third) drink, read this: drinking alcohol can interfere with muscle growth and delay recovery from training. In a recent study, men completed a leg workout followed by cycling at a moderate pace for 30 minutes and a set of 10 intervals (the study design was developed to mimic playing a team sport). Immediately and 4 hours post exercise they consumed whey protein, whey + alcohol or whey + carbohydrate. Alcohol plus whey protein reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis (muscle protein synthesis correlates with muscle growth over time) by an astounding 24% compared to drinking the whey protein without any alcohol. When alcohol was consumed without protein (as is often the case when athletes go out and party after a game), there was a 37% reduction in muscle protein synthesis. This study shows that alcohol interferes with muscle repair and recovery.

Here’s a breakdown of what alcohol can do to your performance and recovery:

  1. Alcohol interferes with the muscle growth and repair.
  2. Drinking alcohol can affect the way an athlete eats after a workout or game. Think about it – how often do you make healthy food choices after you’ve had a few drinks? “I’ll have another Long Island Iced Tea alongside the chicken and steamed vegetables platter with a side of mashed sweet potatoes.” Yeah right.
  3. Alcohol decreases blood testosterone levels in men in a dose dependent manner. The more you drink the more your testosterone decreases.
  4. Alcohol makes you dehydrated. That pounding headache you woke up with the last time you drank too much? Part of that is the result of dehydration.
  5. Alcohol impairs memory, focus, reaction time, accuracy and fine motor skills.Drinking alcohol before a competition or game may decrease your focus, coordination, and reaction time, all of which are crucial for good performance. This loss in focus can also increase your risk for injury. Drinking alcohol after a training session or game can also impair memory, which can affect the way that you remember training strategies or game plans.

Overall, drinking alcohol before or after exercise is not a good idea. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes avoid alcohol 48 hours before a game or performance. Additionally, they recommend drinking plenty of water and eating well after a game. And though it’s tempting to go out and party to celebrate, think before you drink and drink responsibly.

References:

Bianco A, Thomas E, Pomara F, Tabacchi G, Karsten B, Paoli A, Palma A. Alcohol consumption and hormonal alterations related to muscle hypertrophy: a review. Nutrition & Metabolism 2014;11(1):26.

Parr EB, Camera DM, Areta JL, Burke LM, Phillips SM, Hawley JA, Coffey VG. Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PloS one 2014;9(2):e88384.

Kozir LP. ACSM current comment: Alcohol and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine. Internet: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/alcoholandathleticperformance.pdf?sfvrsn=5 (accessed 13 November 2014).

eye drops

Helping Dry Eyes with Better Nutrition

Tears protect your eyes from dust, infections and pollution. And therefore, those with chronic dry eye, caused by either a decrease in tear production (the prescription drug Restasis helps this) or tears that evaporate too quickly, may notice their eyes are frequently so dry they hurt, sting or feel gritty. In addition, chronic dry eye can lead to blurred vision, heightened sensitivity to light or smoke/pollution, excessive tearing, or like someone took sandpaper and rubbed it on them. There are a number of causes of chronic dry eye including Lasik surgery, thyroid disorders, and certain autoimmune diseases (including Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes drying of the mucus membranes including the eyes, mouth and sinuses). If left untreated chronic dry eye can lead to irritation, inflammation, blurred vision, increased risk of developing an eye infection, and scarring of the cornea.

How can you soothe chronic dry eyes? Follow these steps:

  • First and foremost – see an ophthalmologist.
  • Drink plenty of fluid every day.
  • Eat fatty fish at least twice per week or consider a fish oil supplement (always tell your physician about any dietary supplements you are taking). I typically recommend at least 1 gram of EPA + DHA combined (check the label to see how much EPA and DHA the product contains per serving; EPA and DHA are the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish). I like EZ Tears by Zeavision – this supplement contains omega 3s plus other ingredients and seems to help more than omega 3 supplements alone.
  • Consider caffeine in moderation. One study found that caffeine may help increase tear production.
  • Cut down on antihistamine use if possible. Allegra, Zyrtec and other antihistamines can increase dryness. Decongestants also increase dry eye so weigh the benefits versus side effects before using them.
  • Use eye drops for dry eyes (not those for redness).
  • Put warm compresses on your eyes for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  • Cut down on diuretics unless they are prescribed by your physician.
  • Talk to your physician about all of your medications. Certain blood pressure drugs, birth control pills and other prescription medications can increase dryness.
  • Take breaks from the computer, TV, iPad and other electronics. Starring at these for hours may further decrease tear production.
Salmon

Feast on Fish for Your Heart

By Collier Perno

If you’re among the 60% of Americans with elevated blood pressure I’m sure you’ve heard your doctors say these things: “lower your sodium intake,” “increase your physical activity,” and “decrease your alcohol consumption.” While these are all great recommendations, new research has shows there is an alternative treatment that may be even better at lowering blood pressure: the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA)4.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential (the human body can’t make them) polyunsaturated fat. There are three main types of omega-3s, EPA, DHA and alpha linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and algae and are crucial for brain development, reducing inflammation, protecting structural cell integrity, and they may help decrease muscle soreness in athletes1.

In March of 2014, the American Journal of Hypertension released a comprehensive meta analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies) that examined 70 randomized controlled trials studying the effect EPA and DHA on blood pressure (BP). Participants were adults with normal BP and adults with high blood pressure who were not taking BP lowering medications. Subjects were given EPA and DHA omega-3s in the form of seafood, fortified foods, or dietary supplements. The results of the study showed a decrease in both systolic and diastolic BP in all adults. The most significant effects were found in those with existing high BP. There was an average 4.51 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was reduced by an average 3.05 mm Hg4.

The analysis also compared common lifestyle recommendations and their effects on BP to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids effects on BP. The findings were astonishing. When looking at SBP (the top number – this reflects the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats), consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 had an average decrease of 4.51 mm Hg, while reduced dietary sodium had an average reduction of 3.6 mm Hg, and decreased alcohol consumption had an average 3.8 mm Hg decrease. The only lifestyle recommendation shown to have a greater decrease in SBP was increased physical activity, which lowered SBP by 4.6 mmHg.

Still not sold on the benefits of consuming omega-3? There’s more! Over the past two decades, some research has linked the consumption of omega-3 fish oils to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. killing about 600,000 Americans each year (that’s 1 in every 4 deaths)2. As previously discussed, omega-3s reduce BP levels (a major risk factor for heart disease) and lower triglyceride levels. A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association concluded consumption of omega-3 fatty acids creates a significant cardioprotective effect in non-hypertensive individuals3.

How do I get my omega-3 fatty acids?

  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to increase omega-3 dietary intake
  • Fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, sardines, herring, albacore tuna, and salmon are all great sources of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Eating walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, kidney beans, and tofu are other great ways to increase your omega 3 consumption. These provide Alpha- Linoleic Acid (ALA) form of omega 3s.
  • When looking for omega 3 supplements choose nordic naturals or any supplement that is USP certified. Costco’s Kirkland brand is a great option!
  1. Omega-3 fatty acids | University of Maryland Medical Center. Omega-3 Fat. Acids. Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids. Accessed November 12, 2014.
  2. CDC – DHDSP – Heart Disease Facts. Am. Heart Dis. Facts. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Accessed November 12, 2014.
  3. Key Messages for JAMA/Annals of Internal Medicine Studies. Journal of American Medical Association. Accessed November 12, 2014.
  1. Cid, Martha. Omega-3s Can Significantly Reduce Blood Pressure, Study Finds.     Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s. Accessed November 12,20
ICBINB! Image

Eat Real Food

While in the midst of writing about the debate on dietary fats, I stumbled across this article, which advises us to “eat real food” and “avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago” (ugggg but I like broccolini! and, you might find me kicking and screaming if I have to give up frozen food). The “eat real food” advice is something I’ve seen over and over from fitness people and journalists alike and each time I wonder what on earth are they talking about and what the h%^# is ‘real food’? 

First of all, the advice to eat “real food” is useless because there is no definition for it. Is it real if it came out of a ground? What if it came out of a ground, was chopped and found in the frozen foods isle? Clearly this means it’s not real because frozen vegetables didn’t exist 100 years ago! And, in this particular article, the author suggests we trade in oil-based spreads (he named I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in particular) because he is an advocate for a diet high in saturated fat (I’m guessing because he hasn’t read the actual studies on saturated fat). And I’m left wondering if I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (non-GMO sourced ingredients: water, plant oils, salt, monoglycerides & diglycerides* – part of oil that is used as an emulsifier, lecithin* – another emulsifier, vinegar, natural flavors, vitamin A and beta carotene – an antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A, for color) his example of ultra processed food and butter (ingredients: cream, milk and salt) is real food? What makes one real and the other not real? I wonder if he’d approve if I made my own spread at home with ingredients from my kitchen cabinet?

Second off, one of my colleagues recently brought up an excellent point – telling people to “eat real food” is a statement full of judgement. And how do you expect people to change their behaviors when they feel like they are being judged and feel shamed about what they are eating? As a dietitian, I’m not here to judge you or your diet. I’m only here to help people move in the right direction. And if you aren’t my client or  one of my parents, the chances of me even noticing what you are eating or what you put in your shopping cart are slim to none.

So please, unless the FDA comes up with a concrete definition for “real food,” let’s stop pointing fingers and telling people to eat a category of foods that is so ill-defined.

* an emulsifier helps blend oil and water and therefore makes a spread a spread

Businessman eating lunch

When You Should Eat if You Want to Lose Weight

As adults we are taught to eat when it is time to eat – first thing when we wake up before leaving for work, during our lunch hour, at dinnertime. And, if you’ve ever been on a diet you probably followed specific rules regarding  when you should eat and when you should put your fork down. And though all of these time-based schedules for eating contradict intuitive eating – eat when you are hungry (hello simplicity!) – there may be something to meal timing if your goal is weight loss…

Animal studies suggest when we eat may be just as important as what we eat. And, a recent human study examining the timing of meals and weight loss while on a Mediterranean diet + physical activity intervention provided support for this meal timing theory. Study authors found those who were described as “late lunch eaters” (before 3 pm) lost significantly less weight than “early lunch eaters” (after 3 pm) though reported calorie intake was similar between both groups. Another pattern that is important to note – those who ate lunch late also ate dinner late compared to the early lunch eaters.

Though you may want to start setting your alarm clock for mealtime, keep in mind that this study showed an association, not causation (they didn’t intervene and change meal times and then analyze the results). And therefore, it is possible that those who ate lunch early had specific lifestyle characteristics, genetics or sleep patterns that contributed to their changes in weight while on this diet and exercise intervention. Plus, they didn’t report changes in body fat (though they did take these measures) so it isn’t clear if the early eaters lost more fat or muscle or both. But, here’s how you can take this new study and additional research (plus my observations) on this topic and figure out what is best for you:

  • If you have disordered eating/an eating disorder, follow the advice of your RD regarding meal timing.
  • Shift your food intake to earlier in the day because, eating earlier may prevent bingeing or overeating later on. Clients who have a skewed eating pattern – dieting during the day and eating as little as possible – tend to overeat at night (and make less than wise choices). So, make sure you actually eat meals (at least 3 per day).
  • Eating more often seems to decrease hunger and improve appetite control.
  • Eating multiple times per day will not make you burn more calories.
  • Eat a good amount of protein at each meal to preserve muscle during weight loss (30 grams or about the size of your palm; more than this if you have little hands). The more calories you cut the more protein you need to hold on to your muscle.
  •  If you hate breakfast, skip it. But, eat a meal as soon as you are hungry (I don’t care if it isn’t “mealtime”) and eat your lunch whenever you are hungry after that.
  • Eat your meals when you are hungry (or a snack to hold you off if you are eating with others at a set time). There’s something to be said for paying attention to your body. If you just ate lunch and you are hungry an hour later, than eat. Have a little faith in your hunger cues.

References:

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011; 8: 4.
Int J Obes (Lond). 2013;37(4):604-611.