Proper hydration is critical for performance, especially in the summer when higher temperatures and humidity causes athletes to sweat more.
When the body loses water, dehydration can set in and cause blood volume to decrease, which can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness and difficulty regulating body temperature.
Even the most conscientious athlete can hurt their efforts to stay hydrated because of the food they eat.
Here are a few dehydrating foods and beverages to avoid during the summer racing season.
Sodium is necessary for maintaining fluid balance in the body. However, large amounts of sodium ingested through cured fish, meats or deli meats, soy sauce, fried foods and snack foods like popcorn or chips can leave you feeling thirsty.
Always choose items with lower sodium when available. For instance, if you're out for sushi, try the low-sodium soy sauce. Don't forget to drink extra water when eating these foods too.
Athletes have slightly higher protein needs than the average sedentary individual. Yet, there's no good mechanism to store protein in the body if consumption surpasses need. Often people who consume large quantities of protein, while restricting carbohydrates, end up with increased ketone levels. Ketones are then excreted through your urine, and if your body is excreting more urine than usual, you need extra water to supplement all that was lost.
More: 4 Common Hydration Myths
Alcoholic beverages are high in calories (7 kcal/gram) and can cause dehydration—two bad side effects for athletes during summer racing season. A general rule is to consume one glass of water or club soda between alcoholic beverages. It may calm your buzz, but your body will thank you the next day.
Sugary Foods and Drinks
Have you ever wondered why you need a tall glass of milk to wash down a delicious brownie? Foods with high levels of sugar impact fluid balance in the body. Sweet foods and drinks drive up our thirst mechanism because many of them contain sodium. Turn to water and foods with high water concentration like celery and watermelon to quench your thirst and your hunger.
Caffeine is considered a diuretic. In some individuals, caffeine does not increase urinary excretion nor cause increased heart rate. However, for those who don't normally consume caffeine, having it during training or on race-day is a recipe for dehydration.