Fluids, Caffeine and Sodium
in Your Sports Nutrition Plan

Fluids intake, sodium and caffeine can impact the hydration goals in your sports nutrition plan.

Estimated Daily Fluid Needs for the "Off Season"

Your body is water based. Every process that takes place in your body is water based. Even the health of your skin is water based. So, it is obvious that you need fluids for good health.

The Institute of Medicine has set the Adequate Intake for water (for women) at 2.7 liters per day, of which 2.2 liters (9 cups) should be from liquids, the rest can be from the natural moisture in foods. (The AI for men is 3.7 liters per day). Of course, your need for fluids increases as your exercise time and intensity increases, so the AI for water is probably NOT enough for most women who train all year round. You can determine your specific fluid needs with a simple test.

  • What else is there to drink in your "off season" sports nutrition plan?


  • Take a break from the sports drinks…you’ll need them again before long. Reach for water or a product like Propel instead. You do get fluid from milk, so stock up. Make smoothies if you aren’t reaching for the milk and fruit as you should. Sugar-free lemonade is a better bet than the high calorie sugary version. Try green tea for it’s phytonutrient benefits. Alcohol can provide many calories, zaps your body of B-vitamins, and is dehydrating. Take it easy in case your friends call you for an early morning fun run! Still not sure of the best way to stay hydrated? Reach for water in your sports nutrition plan! The off season is the time to replenish your body, so drink a variety of fluids.

    Sodium

    Sodium functions in fluid balance, muscle function, and nerve impulses. Not having enough sodium in your body could be one factor in muscle cramps. There is a limited amount of natural sodium in whole foods, but the primary sources in our diets are from condiments, packaged foods, soups and table salt.

    The Institute of Medicines Adequate Intake recommendation for sodium is 1500 milligrams (mg) sodium daily for blood pressure control. The Upper Limit guideline for the general population is 2300 mg sodium daily. These values are sufficient for the “off season”, but are likely too low for your sports nutrition training plan. In training, your need for sodium may increase as you lose salt through sweat. “Salty sweaters”—look for white streaks on your clothes or hat—need more sodium.

    Dietitian Jan Dowell discusses reducing sodium and using herbs in the video clip.



    Sports drinks for fluids are designed to provide needed sodium, but you may also want to salt your food and use salty snacks during training. In the “off season” you will need less sodium if you are sweating less. Some people are “salt sensitive”, meaning that a high sodium intake increases their blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, try lowering your sodium intake along with eating more whole foods that are low in sodium.

    Check out some salty snack ideas on the snack page: sports nutrition snacks.



    Caffeine

    It is easy to let down your guard and drink more caffeine and soda when not in intense training, but do you really feel good with that caffeine-sugar buzz? Are you just trying to replace the natural buzz you were getting from a great workout? Just go work out and get your buzz.

    News flash! Caffeine is not an essential nutrient. (Well, maybe it depends on the day). There is some support for caffeine as a performance enhancer in sports nutrition. The “ergogenic” dose is 200-500 milligrams 30-60 minutes before an event. (The range reflects differences in body weight). Caffeine’s effect can last from 2 to 4 hours. Keep this in mind the evening before an event so that caffeine intake doesn’t interfere with your sleep. You do need to consider if any side-effects of caffeine (feeling anxious, dizzy, shaky, heartburn, or loose bowels) outweigh the possible performance benefits (improved focus and mood, and decreased pain perception and perceived effort).

    Recent reports also suggest that caffeine, in amounts equivalent to 2 cups of coffee, is not dehydrating as once thought and will contribute to your overall fluid intake. Caffeine over that amount should be taken with caution and more water.

    Average caffeine content of popular beverages8 ounces brewed coffee = 100-150 milligrams (mg)8 ounces brewed tea: 40 mg16 ounces softdrink: 50 mg16 oz. Mountain Dew: 75 mg8 oz. Red Bull: 80 mg

    Be aware of caffeine and other stimulants in sports nutrition supplements, including energy drinks, bars, and gels. It can add up quickly. Other popular stimulants with less research on safety or effectiveness include bitter orange, ginseng, guarana, mate, and cola nut. Excessive caffeine intake, or caffeine coupled with these stimulants can cause an irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure, so take a look at how your caffeine intake may impact your lifetime fitness.