Easy Tips for Eating Right and Staying Hydrated

Hilary Walentuk, MS, RD, LDN| View Author Bio

We’re in the thick of summer and it’s hot. Whether you’re gearing up for summer sports leagues or a weekend hike with the pup, it’s important to eat right and hydrate to fuel all your activities.

Good nutrition in athletes leads to:

  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased risk of disease and injury
  • Faster recovery

Sports Nutrition 101

Pre-workout nutrition is important to prepare the body for working hard and energy expenditure. Carbohydrates provide fuel for exercise and are the main source of energy for muscles. Throughout the day, focus on a varied diet filled with whole grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy. Include high-quality protein at each meal to help repair and build muscles. As you get closer to your workout, focus on foods low in fat and fiber to avoid stomach upset.

During exercise, focus on replacing fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates as needed. Based on the duration of the activity, recommendations will change. Make sure to always have water and fuel on hand.

It’s also important to drink fluids throughout the day. Dehydration can zap strength, leave athletes feeling sluggish during performance, and increase the risk for heat stroke or exhaustion.

Recovery

While it’s incredibly important to eat right and hydrate before and during physical activity, it’s just as important to properly refuel and rehydrate after. What you eat and drink after a hard workout or competition can really affect your recovery.

The main goals after physical activity are to:

Refuel muscles with carbohydrates

Repair and rebuild muscles with high-quality protein

Rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes

Flavored milk, such as chocolate and strawberry, is a great recovery drink. In addition to being delicious, it contains an ideal 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. The carbohydrates refuel muscles and replenish energy stores while the high-quality protein repairs and rebuilds muscles.

We also sweat a lot during exercise and in that sweat, we lose electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.  Being a leading source of nine essential nutrients, including potassium and magnesium, milk is a great choice to replace those electrolytes.

Recovery foods should be consumed within 15-60 minutes of exercising and again 3-4 hours after to allow for ideal recovery.

Delicious dairy snacks for optimal recovery:

  • Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
  • Cottage cheese and canned pineapple for a sweet and salty combination
  • Iced latte and granola bar for an easy, on-the-go snack

For more dairy and sports nutrition tips, visit Dairy’s Role in Sports Nutrition.

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