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Boost your sports performance this summer by eating right

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India is experiencing its hottest summer in recorded history, with temperatures soaring to unprecedented heights. This year, Delhi’s Mungeshpur recorded a staggering 52.9°C, making it the hottest place in the country.

Other places like Phalodi in Rajasthan and Sirsa in Haryana have also experienced extreme temperatures, with highs of 51°C and 50.3°C, respectively.

It’s important to note that the northern part of the country, which is particularly affected by this scorching heat, has 40 per cent of India’s athletes who are bearing the brunt of the rising temperatures.

Those involved in outdoor sports, especially, are particularly vulnerable. Sports such as cricket, football, athletics, and field hockey require extended hours of training under the sun, leading to significant loss of electrolytes and minerals through sweat. Now you may ask, why do we even need these electrolytes?

Our human body relies on a delicate balance of electrolytes and minerals to function optimally. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium play crucial roles in maintaining fluid balance, muscle function, and overall cellular health.

RELATED: Rising temperatures a new challenge for teams, amid heatwave warnings in ISL 2023-24

During intense physical activity, especially in high temperatures, the body sweats to cool down. Sweat contains not only water but also these essential electrolytes.

Electrolytes do more than just regulate fluids. They have many important functions, including:

  • Transmitting nerve signals from the heart, muscles, and nerve cells to other cells
  • Building new tissue
  • Supporting blood clotting
  • Keeping your heart beating by electrically stimulating muscle contractions
  • Maintaining the blood’s pH level
  • Regulating the fluid level in blood plasma

When the body loses a significant amount of electrolytes through sweat, it can lead to dehydration, muscle cramps, fatigue, and decreased performance. Sodium is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat, followed by potassium and magnesium.

These electrolytes are vital for nerve function, muscle contraction, and maintaining blood pressure. Without adequate replenishment, you can experience severe decline in performance and even heat-related illnesses.

I’ve got these simple and effective additions to help you prevent electrolyte loss and ensure optimal performance during the summer months without making any changes to your diet.

Stay hydrated with cooling beverages

  • Coconut water: Rich in potassium and other electrolytes, coconut water is a natural hydrator. It’s an excellent alternative to sugary sports drinks. An average green coconut provides about 1/2–1 glass of coconut water. One glass (240 ml) contains only 60 calories. In fact, a 2014 study out of Brazil found that coconut water improved exercise capacity better than water or a sports drink during a very hot day.
  • Buttermilk and curd: Traditional Indian drinks like buttermilk (chaas) and curd (dahi) are not only cooling but also packed with calcium and probiotics, which aid digestion and hydration.
  • Infused water: Adding slices of fruits like lemon, cucumber, and mint to water can make it more refreshing and palatable, encouraging more frequent hydration.

Incorporate fruits into your diet

  • Watermelon and melons: These fruits have high water content and are rich in vitamins and minerals, making them perfect for staying hydrated and replenishing lost nutrients.
  • Bananas: A great source of potassium, bananas help in maintaining electrolyte balance and preventing muscle cramps.

Using isotonic hydration powders

These are specially formulated mixes which, when combined with water, create a solution that matches the osmolarity of your body fluids. This means they help quickly and effectively replace both the fluids and electrolytes lost during intense exercise.

By drinking isotonic hydration solutions, you can rehydrate faster, maintain your electrolyte balance, and sustain your performance and endurance during your workouts or competitions.

Isotonic drinks are specifically designed to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat. Consuming these during intense training sessions can help maintain performance and prevent dehydration.

Adding beetroot to diet

A study found that supplementing with beetroot juice at least six days prior to intense exercise or athletic events can significantly improve stamina and recovery.

Beetroot is packed with nitrates, which help in reducing oxygen cost during exercise and improve overall efficiency. This means your muscles need less oxygen to perform the same amount of work.

ALSO READ: Rising temperature leads to shortened A-Division League games in Kerala

In simpler terms, eating beetroot can make your body more efficient during exercise, allowing you to train harder and recover faster, helping you get the most out of your workouts and competitions. Incorporating beetroot into your diet can make a noticeable difference in performance.

Here are five beetroot-based dishes, smoothies, and salads that can help boost your performance:

  • Beetroot smoothie: Blend beetroot with bananas, yoghurt, and a dash of honey for a refreshing and nutrient-packed smoothie.
  • Beetroot salad: Combine roasted beetroot with spinach, feta cheese, walnuts, and some vinegar for a delicious and healthy salad.
  • Beetroot hummus: Blend cooked beetroot with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Serve with whole grain pita or fresh veggies.
  • Beetroot and carrot juice: Mix fresh beetroot and carrot juice with a hint of ginger for a revitalising drink rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Beetroot raita: Grate beetroot and mix it with curd, cumin powder, and a pinch of salt. This cooling raita is perfect as a side dish with meals.
  • In addition to this, following these tips will prevent serious health issues. Here are some practical tips:
  • Carry a water bottle: Keep a water bottle with you and sip regularly throughout the day. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water.
  • Limit sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol: These can act as diuretics, increasing urine production and contributing to dehydration if not balanced with adequate water intake.
  • Be cautious of spicy and high-sodium foods: Such foods can increase thirst and fluid loss, disrupting electrolyte balance if not balanced with water intake.
  • Hydrate before training: Make it a habit to drink at least one or two glasses of water before starting your training or workout.
  • Take regular breaks: Ensure regular breaks in shaded or cool areas during training to prevent overheating and allow the body to recover.

By adopting these simple dietary adjustments and staying vigilant about hydration, you can significantly improve your performance and safety during the hottest months of the year.

Eating the right foods and maintaining electrolyte balance is not just about enhancing performance but also about safeguarding health in extreme conditions.

As a sports nutritionist, I cannot stress enough the importance of these practices. Let’s stay healthy, hydrated, and high-performing this summer!

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