What to Drink When Water Isn’t Enough

Fitness on a Budget, Food & Nutrition, Uncategorized
drinking water

We all know hydration is key. Yet it seems like the whole country is on an H2O hiatus. After all, who needs regular old water from the tap when you can chug coconut water? Courtesy of the energy and sports drink retail market, which recently topped $25 billionthere are more hydration options than ever before.

It’s a big business that wants us to imagine big things (like a single drink might make us perform like a star athlete). Yet the truth is, if you’re averaging an hour at the gym a few times per week, eating healthy snacks and drinking water before and after your workouts provides adequate fuel and rehydration. According to a recent UC Berkeley study, most people who drink sports drinks at least once a day aren’t as physically active as they should be.

Instead of overdoing the designer drinks, think before you sip and make sure you’re not taking in more calories or sodium than you should.

COCONUT WATER

While this all-natural, refreshing drink is hyped as a super-hydrating powerhouse, the majority of studies don’t prove that it rehydrates the body much better than water. On the plus side, it contains less sugar than sports drinks and far less than juice. It’s also naturally rich in potassium, a key electrolyte that supports blood pressure and heart health, as well as bone and muscle strength. Yet one cup still packs 45 calories, which can add up quickly if you’re drinking it frequently. Bottom line: An occasional coconut water is fine, but don’t go overboard and read the label: Coconut water with added juice or extra flavorings can contain as much sugar as regular juice.

HYDRATION TABLETS

Portable tablets like those made by Nuun are designed to be dissolved in 16 ounces of water to provide key electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. There’s no hidden high-calorie pitfall: Every tab has one gram or less of sugar and around 12 calories. Not everyone can get on board with the fairly weak taste, which is similar to lightly flavored water. However, if you’re active outdoors especially in the sun, where excessive sweating makes electrolyte replacement important, the delivery system is awesome: the tabs come in cylindrical tubes that are lightweight, making them easy to stash in your backpack for any on-demand needs if temps soar during an afternoon bike ride or if that Sunday hike takes hours longer than expected.

SPORTS DRINKS

A simple, effective sports drink is one that refuels the body with some carbs (aka sugar) and electrolytes (aka sodium and potassium). The formula has launched a dizzying number of “performance” beverages, with some brands like Gatorade going so far as to promote distinct products for before, during and after exercise.

Yet these drinks contain tons of sugar, ranging from 35–52 grams per bottle. In truth, the idea that sports drinks are “good for you” entirely depends on whether your body needs them to recover from extra-challenging exercise. So: Was your last workout a grueling endeavor that lasted two hours or longer? A super sweaty run on an extra hot day? Congratulations, you earned a sports drink! If not, skip the unneeded sugar and drink water instead.


“FITNESS” WATER

Zero-calorie drinks in this category include Propel, water designed for “performance” with an electrolyte content similar to Gatorade (which owns the brand). Then there’s what some call “designer” waters, such as Smartwater from Coca-Cola or the the recently introduced Lifewtr from Pepsi. These contain very small amounts of electrolytes, mainly for flavor and are more similar to regular bottled water than sports drinks. Yet another entry here is VitaminWater Zero, lightly flavored zero-calorie version of regular VitaminWater. (The latter, although promoted as “healthy,” actually contains tons of sugar, and tends to have vitamins such as B and C, which are the ones most people get enough of already.) Not sure which one is best? Keep it simple and drink a glass of regular water — nature’s perfect hydration system.


Source: BY KATE CHYNOWETH

Three Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings

Food & Nutrition, Uncategorized

Most of us have experienced intense sugar cravings at one point in time — and we can all agree that once a sugar craving hits, it can be tough to ignore. Unfortunately, the key to reducing sugar cravings is actually eating less of the sweet stuff. While some may prefer to go cold turkey and completely stop consuming added sugar, many of us find this approach unrealistic and unsustainable in the long run.

For those wanting a less restrictive approach, here are three easy tips to reduce sugar cravings for good.

1. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Dehydration often masks itself as hunger — particularly in the form of sugar cravings. This is because even mild dehydration can make it difficult for our body to tap into energy stores, particularly glycogen, the body’s main storage form for carbohydrates. When your body can’t access simple carbs quickly — especially after exercise — your cravings for them increase, often in the form of a sugar desire.

Hydration Tips:

  • Down a minimum of 64 fluid ounces (8 cups) of water daily. Split it up by drinking 32 ounces (4 cups) before lunch and another 32 ounces before dinner is over.
  • The next time a sugar craving strikes, drink a tall glass of water and wait 15–20 minutes. Your craving might just disappear.

2. CUT BACK ON ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

2013 study at Yale University suggested the brain is not easily fooled by artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. The study looked at a specific brain signal involved in choosing between real sugar and no- or low-calorie sweeteners — a signal that regulates dopamine levels which, in turn, mediates pleasure in the brain. Not surprisingly, the brain finds greater reward from real sugar than it does from artificial sweeteners. These findings suggest frequent consumption of artificially sweetened food and drinks, particularly when we’re hungry or overtired, may lead to greater future consumption of higher sugar- and calorie-laden alternatives as the brain seeks that reward.

Tips to Cut Out the Imposters:

  • Instead of diet soda, reach for a club soda with a splash of fruit juice.
  • Use half the amount of artificial sweetener you usually add to your coffee, and continue to cut back over time.


3. GRADUALLY EASE UP ON SWEETS

Gradually reducing the amount of sugar you consume can be an effective approach in reducing cravings. It may take a bit longer to feel the difference, but when you gradually reduce sugar intake, you don’t endure the physical side effects and feelings of deprivation associated with cold-turkey withdrawal. Making just two or three of the following small changes can make a big difference in reducing sugar consumption and curbing cravings.

Ideas for Cutting Back:

  • Order lattes and other sweetened coffee drinks with half the amount of sweetener.
  • Prevent overeating by pre-portioning sweets and other packaged foods that list sugar (or one of its many nicknames) within the first five ingredients.
  • Mix plain yogurt into your usual sweetened yogurt.
  • Dilute soda and juice with club soda or plain water.
  • Pair sweets, like chocolate, with nutritious foods rather than eating them alone. (Think: apple slices topped with peanut butter and chocolate chips.)
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by 1/3 or up to 1/2.

BY ELLE PENNER, MPH, RD

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