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The Importance of Hydration For Performance

Why is fluid important?

Our bodies are made up of 50-70% water – it is found in every cell, tissue and organ. Our bodies need water to:

  • transport nutrients in the blood
  • help chemical reactions take place (eg: digesting food)
  • replace fluid lost through sweating and breathing
  • remove waste products through the urine

Why is fluid important during exercise?

During exercise, the body cools itself by sweating. This results in a loss of body fluid that can lead to dehydration if not replaced.

Sweat production (fluid loss) differs for everyone and depends on factors such as age, genetics, clothing, body surface area, exercise intensity and the training environment – with increases in temperature, humidity, and high-intensity exercise causing a higher rate of sweat loss, and therefore requiring a greater need for fluid replacement.

Dehydration and performance

Exercise performance can be impaired when an individual experiences even mild dehydration. The reason for this is reduced oxygen intake due to the cardiovascular system working harder to keep body temperature normal. This increase in heart rate and body temperature, with reduced oxygen intake, can make exercise feel more difficult (compared to training in a hydrated state) and mental fatigue can occur, bringing about lapses in skill level, concentration and decision-making.

But can you drink too much?

Drinking more fluid than required can also impair performance. A stomach full of fluid is certainly not comfortable when trying to exercise, and on a more serious note, over-hydration can dilute electrolytes in the blood causing serious side-effects such as headaches, disorientation and in very severe cases, coma or death. Please note this is quite rare and dehydration is a lot more common in exercising individuals.

How much fluid should I drink?

The amount of fluid you drink will depend on your individual needs. If you are a serious athlete, you should consult a sports dietitian who can assist you with calculating your sweat losses and help you devise a hydration plan.

Before Exercise

It is important to start exercise in a hydrated state. An easy way to gauge this is to check the colour of your urine as per the image below – if your urine is a light yellow colour, you are most likely hydrated.

If your urine is darker, you’ll need to start sipping on fluids leading up to your exercise session. Between 200-400ml is a good start to help you commence exercise with an improved hydration status without feeling bloated from too much water.

During Exercise

“Drink to Thirst”. This means sipping on fluids as you feel is required. This will avoid visits to the toilet and an upset stomach. Again, if you are a serious athlete, “drinking to thirst” may not be enough and a hydration plan may need to be devised.

After Exercise

The goal after exercise is to replace all lost fluids and electrolytes. One simple way to achieve this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. If you weigh less after your session compared to before, multiply the difference by 125-150% and this is the amount of fluid you will need to drink over the next 4-6 hours to replace the fluids lost during exercise.

In regards to electrolyte replacement, drinking fluids alongside slightly salty recovery snacks such as bread, milk or cereal, will help your body rehydrate more effectively. Another option is to drink a sports drink – especially if the session was over 90 minutes in length and/or in hot and humid conditions.

What are the best fluids to drink?

For short duration, lower intensity exercise, water is the best fluid option before, during and after exercise. If you’re exercising for over 90 minutes and/or in hot and humid conditions, sports drinks may be a better option due to their concentration of carbohydrates (for energy) and electrolytes (stimulating thirst and helping the body re-hydrate more efficiently).

Two beverages that are not good to drink around exercise are alcohol and energy drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic (causing us to urinate), so drinking it before exercise will set you up for dehydration and prevent rehydration if consumed after exercise.

Energy drinks are another poor fluid choice due to their higher carbohydrate content, which can cause stomach discomfort during exercise. Also, while a small amount of caffeine via a coffee per se, may help you feel more alert and energized for exercise, a recent study found the caffeine from energy drinks results in more profound changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which could have serious consequences in regards to performance and health. This could be due to the other stimulants in energy drinks. (For more information on caffeine, checkout our previous article posted on 12 May 2017).

 

While many athletes and fitness-lovers focus intently on their training and nutrition, it is imperative that hydration is not forgotten. The consequences of dehydration can be quite serious – especially with Shanghai’s hot and humid summer months coming up. If you want to know more about fluid and hydration, or would like to schedule a nutrition consultation with our sports dietitian, contact XpertHealth via our WeChat page or info@xperthealth.com.

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Vitamin D for Health & Performance


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for health. Exposing our skin to sensible amounts of ultraviolet rays from the sun is the most plentiful way to obtain vitamin D, but it is also naturally found in fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel), egg yolks and wild mushrooms. In addition to natural forms, vitamin D is found in fortified foods and in supplement form.

An optimal vitamin D status is essential for countless bodily functions, making it an important nutrient for all individuals.

ROLE IN THE BODY

Amongst other roles, vitamin D:

  • assists to maintain levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood to enable the continual formation, growth and remodelling of bones;
  • support cell growth;
  • maintain neuromuscular and immune function;
  • can help reduce inflammation within the body.

 

COULD YOU BE DEFICIENT?

The rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are prominent worldwide. A study in 2004 found over 77% of Americans were considered to have insufficient levels of vitamin D, and another study in 2013 found only 5% of Chinese citizens were sufficient in vitamin D.

 

Particularly “at risk” groups include:

  • People with naturally very dark skin;
  • People who cover up from the sun and delibirately avoid sun exposure;
  • People who work in occupations with limited sun exposure (eg: office workers);
  • People with chronic disease or fat malabsorption syndromes (eg: diabetes or coeliac disease, respectively).

ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

Due to the many essential roles of vitamin D within the body, researchers have started to examine the influence of vitamin D on physical performance and injury.

  •  A study examining male military recruits found vitamin D status to be a significant determinant of maximal peak bone mass and that insufficient levels of vitamin D significantly increased the risk of stress fractures.
  • A study using female navy recruits found that those who supplemented with vitamin D had a 20% lower incidence of stress fractures.
  • Poor vitamin D status was associated with reduced forearm strength in adolescent females. In the same population group, muscle power and jump height were positively associated with adequate vitamin D levels.
  • Multiple performance studies in older adults (over 65 years) have associated low vitamin D levels to decreased reaction time, poor balance, and an increased risk of falling. In addition, vitamin D supplementation in this population showed improvements in strength and walking distance. Although the aging population is not quite indicative of a typical athlete, the positive results in older adults is encouraging for scientists to further research vitamin D and athletic performance.

 

 

HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

The intake measurement of vitamin D is expressed in “International Units” (IU). The Endocrine Society recommends 400–1000 IU of vitamin D per day for infants, 600–1000 IU/day for children (1-18 years) and 1500–2000 IU/day for adults. This is in addition to sensible sun exposure, which is about 15 to 20 minutes daily with 40% of the skin surface exposed to sunshine.

The serum level of vitamin D is measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) via a blood test. As mentioned above, although research in the area of vitamin D status and athletic performance is preliminary, the findings suggest a serum level above 40 ng/mL will give athletes the best chance of possibly improving their anaerobic athletic performance.

 

 

From a nutrition perspective, food should always come first! However, for most of us living in China, it would be prudent to look into a vitamin D supplement due to many of the “at risk” criteria being relevant. If you did want to obtain most of your vitamin D from food, you would be looking to eat similar to the following each day: 100g of canned salmon (624IU), 1 mackerel fillet (403IU), two large eggs (36IU), and two cups of fortified milk (254IU).

 

 

Optimal vitamin D levels are essential for many significant functions of the body – including bone health, electrolyte regulation, protein synthesis and immunity. These vital functions are essential for all individuals, and especially so for elite and recreational athletes who put their bodies under repetitive stress. Therefore, even though there is limited literature available to support a positive effect from vitamin D on performance, obtaining optimal levels should be a goal for all athletic and active individuals.

If you are curious to discuss your diet and want to know more about vitamins and how they can affect your health and training, please contact XpertHealth today!

 

References available.

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Eating For Health And Performance

What is RED-S?

RED-S stands for Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. It’s a relatively new term that was introduced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to give a name to the complex collection of impaired physical functions that occur due to low energy intake in athletes (male and female). RED-S is a more comprehensive term that builds on the condition known as the “Female Athlete Triad”.

According to the IOC, RED-S refers to “an energy deficiency relative to the balance between energy intake in the form of food and energy expenditure required for activities of daily living, healthy bodily functions, growth and sport activities such as training and competition”.

The amount of energy left over after exercise is called “Energy Availability”, and ideally we want a adequate Energy Availability otherwise health consequences can arise.

Possible signs of RED-S?

It is important to note that weight loss and/or a low body fat percentage are not good indications of RED-S. The body is very adaptable and will conserve itself for survival. The body is able to maintain weight eventhough Energy Availability is low. This is common in female athletes with menstrual disorders.

The signs and symptoms listed below might be your body’s way of telling you to look closer at how you are managing your energy intake.

  • Health signs and symptoms of RED-S can include:
  • Disordered thoughts and practices around food
  • Slower metabolic rate
  • Decreased immunity
  • Impaired hormonal health (in males and females)
  • Compromised menstrual function (in females)
  • Poor bone health
  • Problems with protein synthesis
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Gastrointestinal issues.

Sporting signs and symptoms of RED-S can include:

  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Inability to gain muscle
  • Increased fat stores in the body and aninability to lose weight (especially pertinent to athletes who need to “makeweight” for their sport)
  • Stress fractures
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Decreased strength, speed, agility, endurance
  • Overall poor performance.

What can you do if you think you are experiencing RED-S?

Nutrition might be a key factor! However, first and foremost it is important to receive a medical assessment to ensure your health is stable.

If nutrition is found to be the underlying cause, treatment should include increasing diet
ary intake of energy and/or decreasing energy expenditure by limiting exercise duration or quantity.

One way to achieve this is to incorporate one or two additional snacks into the day, especially around exercise. Examples include a small tub of yoghurt, a handful of nuts and a banana. Or perhaps two slices of fruit toast topped with peanut butter and followed with an icy cold glass of milk.

Alternatively, small changes can be made to your regular meals – add cheese and avocado to sandwiches; roast vegetables in oil; eat fatty fish such as salmon instead of chicken, etc. These small changes shouldn’t affect gastrointestinal comfort, however they are a good start to increasing overall energy intake. Also remember to eat regularly, and incorporate both carbohydrates and protein into every meal.

If an athlete is experiencing RED-S on a more serious level, it is imperative that a treatment plan is devised and implemented via a medical team that includes a physician, qualified dietitian, and psychologist (if need be).

Although not every athlete and sports person is at risk of RED-S, it is still important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and act accordingly if suspected. Sports should be beneficial for our bodies –not detrimental! By maintaining an adequate energy balance, you can enjoy good health and longevity in your sporting endeavours for many years to come.

 

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Click HERE to set up a FREE consultation today to take a step closer at becoming an Xpert of your health.