5 Tips to Avoid Exertional Heat Illness

15 06 2010

It seems that every summer the media reports the same tragedy: another athlete has died due to the effects of exertional heat illness.  Coaches and athletes need to take precautions when training in the heat.  The following are simple steps to train smartly during the heat.

  1. Allow time to acclimate to the heat. Even top athletes are at risk if they are unaccustomed to the heat.  It can take the body 1-2 weeks to acclimatize to the heat.  Therefore, intensity and duration of workouts need to be reduced at the beginning and gradually increase over the first 14 days of the summer training program.
  2. Keep Hydrated:  Drink early and often. Staying hydrated allows the body’s cooling response to work effectively.  As the body loses water, if not replaced, it becomes more difficult to maintain a safe core temperature.  Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) should be encouraged because they will rehydrate better than water alone.  For strategies to maintain proper hydration, see my previous post on Inadequate fluid intake.
  3. Wear Appropriate Clothing. Wearing the wrong workout attire can make it more difficult for the body to dissipate heat.  Dark clothing absorbs heat.  So make sure to wear lightweight and light colored clothing.
  4. Monitor Weather Conditions. You should always check the weather forecast the morning of a workout day.  If the heat and humidity is predicted to be too high that day, if possible, change your workout to the morning or late evening when it is cooler.  Otherwise, shorten the duration of the workout or decrease the intensity that day.  Also, allow for longer and more frequent hydration breaks.
  5. Be Aware of how some Medications and Supplements affect the body’s ability to cool. One of the more common medication categories that can be dangerous when combined with exercise in the heat is ADHD medications.  If you are on one of these medications or as a coach you have an athlete taking this category, you need to pay extra attention to the warning signs of dehydration.  Some of the signs/symptoms are headache, dizziness, excessive fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and chills.  When the symptoms progress beyond thirst and/or fatigue, the safest strategy is to cool the athlete quickly and allow for rehydration.  As far as supplements go, the worst are stimulant-containing products, such as energy drinks, weight loss products, and others that promote giving you that “pump” like NO-Xplode.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

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Recipe: Watermelon Lemonade Smoothie

11 06 2010

(Yield:  1 serving)

This recipe can address both mistakes discussed this week (poor hydration and inadequate fruits and vegetables).  Watermelon is just over 90% water, so it can aid in hydrating your body.  It also provides a fair amount of vitamins.  It is a good source of vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

  • Vitamin A is important for optimal eye health and boosts immunity by increasing the actions of white blood cells.
  • Vitamin B6 found in watermelon is used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals, such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which may help the body cope with stress.
  • Vitamin C in watermelon can help to enhance the immune system and can protect a body from harmful free radicals.

Ingredients

1 cup Seedless Watermelon chunks

½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I like Oikos)

¼ Cup Lemon Juice

1 – 2 TBSP Sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend on high speed until smooth.

Nutritional information per Serving:

Calories   270 Carbohydrates   38g Fiber  1g Protein   24g Fat 0g Sat. Fat   0g

Oatmeal can be added to smoothies for a nutritional boost.  Add ¼ cup of quick cook oats to blender first.  Blend on high until it’s a fine powder.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend.  This will be a little thicker.  So, if you want a thinner drink, add water or more lemon juice.

Nutritional information per Serving (with ¼ cup of Oats):

Calories   320 Carbohydrates   51g Fiber  3g Protein   27g Fat 1g Sat. Fat   0g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.





Common Mistake #5: Inadequate fluid intake

9 06 2010

Water is the largest single component of the body.  Approximately 75% of muscle is made up of water.  Besides oxygen, it is the most important nutrient in our bodies.  Water plays an important role in nearly every major bodily function: it aids in digestion and absorption, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, regulates body temperature, removes waste, cushions joints and protects organs and tissues.

Water is the most important supplement we have:  USE IT!

Hydration is overlooked by most athletes, with more than 50% living in a state of dehydration.  Try not to wait until you are thirsty.  By this time, you have already lost ~1% of your body weight.  Losing as little as 1% body weight can impair performance and make it difficult for your body to cope with exercise and warm weather.  A loss of 2-4% of your body weight causes a 20% decrease in strength and a 40% decrease in aerobic capacity.

Dehydration can be prevented!  Drinking the proper amount of fluid before, during, and after exercise will keep you well hydrated.

Tips for Proper Hydration:

  • Pre-Hydrate – Drink 16–20oz of water 2–3 hours before practice/competition.  Drink 8oz of water or Gatorade 10–20 minutes before practice/competition.
  • Hydrate – Drink water or Gatorade during practice/competition, not waiting until you feel thirsty.  One simple strategy is to drink 4-8 oz during every break.  On gulp is approximately an ounce.
  • Re-Hydrate – Drink 20–24oz of water or Gatorade for every pound of weight lost.

Plan ahead and carry a water bottle with you.  To calculate approximately how much water you need daily, divide your weight in half.  This is the minimum amount of fluid in ounces you should strive to drink daily.  Alcoholic beverages do not count.  In fact, you need to drink additional water for every alcoholic beverage you have.  The more you sweat, the more you need to drink in addition to this amount.  Also, remember that muscle is 75% water.  So, if you are trying to gain muscle, you need to drink additional water to aid in building that new muscle.

Bottom Line: Carry a water bottle with you and drink often throughout the day.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.





Common Mistake #1: Recovery after training and competition is not taken seriously

24 05 2010

I would like to take the 5 mistakes mentioned in my previous post from May17th, 2010 and expand on each one.  The first mistake concerns not focusing on recovery.  One definition of recovery is returning to a normal and better condition.  For athletes, this is getting their body back to how it was prior to the training session or competition.  The quicker someone recovers, the sooner they can train or compete at an optimal level again.  What changes occur during training and competition that bodies need to recover from?

First, carbohydrates are stored in the muscle in the form of glycogen.  Your body uses this glycogen for energy during activity.  Think of this as refueling your muscles.  One analogy I hear used all the time is comparing our bodies to cars.  Think of carbohydrates as the gasoline you put in your cars.  One role of eating carbohydrates after a workout is refueling – like putting gas in a car after a long trip.  Another role of carbohydrate is limiting the damage caused by exercise.  Exercise can cause an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can lead to the breakdown of muscle.  Eating carbohydrates will decrease the amount of cortisol in our blood, thus decreasing the amount of muscle that is broken down.  Depending on the intensity and length of exercise, you should multiply your body weight by 0.4 to 1 gram to calculate the amount of carbohydrates needed.

Second, but no less important, is protein.  Our bodies also need protein after workouts and competitions to repair the damage that occurred.  Exercise puts our body in a catabolic state.  This means that our bodies are breaking down muscle.  If we don’t get the right food in after a workout, we won’t gain all the benefits from the hard work just completed.  People make the false assumption that exercise builds muscle.  Instead, it is the combination of exercise and proper fueling that stimulates our body to repair and build muscle.  The type of exercise and your body weight dictate how much protein you need.  A good target to aim for is at least 20 grams of protein.  Generally, I recommend multiplying your weight by 0.2 grams for optimal recovery.

Third, we need re-hydration.  This is simply replacing the water used during the exercise.  To know how much you should replace, you should weigh yourself in minimal clothing before and after the exercise bout.  This weight loss represents the water loss that needs to be replaced for your body to function optimally.  General guidelines are to drink 20 oz for every pound you lose.  This can be water, a sports drink to provide the necessary carbohydrates, or a drink that contains protein.

The last thing I would recommend is having some food that has anti-inflammatory properties.  This can also allow for quicker recovery.  Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include cherries, berries, pineapple, and foods that contain Omega-3 fats (ex. salmon and walnuts).

By focusing on these four areas after workouts, you will optimally recover from your workout and see the improvements you desire.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.





Five Common Mistakes Athletes Make…

17 05 2010

Athletes can sabotage their hard work by making any of these common mistakes.

  1. Recovery after training and competition is not taken seriously.
    Protein and carbohydrate recovery after a training or workout session are essential in order to gain the benefits of the workout.  Consuming carbohydrates after a workout are needed to replenish stores in the body that were used up.  When working out, muscles are damaged.  Consuming protein after a workout helps to repair those muscle tissues faster therefore decreasing the amount of breakdown and getting the most out of the workout you just completed.  Recovery is crucial in reaping the benefits from your hard work.
  2. Inadequate amount of sleep.
    Inadequate sleep has also been shown to decrease muscle gain and increase fat gain.  Lack of sleep is associated with decreased levels of growth hormone and increased levels of cortisol.  Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.  Getting enough sleep is imperative for the body to maintain optimal function.
  3. Skipping breakfast.
    If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to be overly hungry later. And then, you’re more likely to overeat at lunch and/or dinner.  “Backloading” or eating more at the end of the day than the beginning is associated with less muscle mass and higher amounts of body fat.
  4. Inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables.
    The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in these foods will help with recovery from strenuous workouts and competitions as well as keep your body healthy to ward off illness.  They also provide fiber and an additional source of water for hydration.
  5. Inadequate fluid intake.
    Plan ahead and carry a water bottle with you.  Divide your weight in half.  This is the minimum amount of fluid ounces you should strive to drink daily.  Alcoholic beverages do not count.  The more you workout out, the more you need drink in addition to this.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.