Summer is the hottest time of year, which makes it a less-than-ideal time for the longest, hardest practices you’ll face. But that’s the reality for fall sport athletes everywhere. To help you endure the heat and humidity, STACK connected with Roberta Anding, R.D., who’s responsible for making sure the Texans survive the suffocating heat in Houston. Here’s her advice.
Doctors tell most people to keep their sodium levels down, but that advice goes out the window for athletes in the heat. “Our players say to me, ‘Why do I need to have salt?’ I just say, ‘What does your sweat taste like?’” Sweat tastes salty because it contains sodium, an essential mineral that you lose during exercise. If you don’t have enough salt, you will cramp up—and in extreme cases, you can die. There are no hard and fast rules for how much salt you should take in—it varies from person to person—but Anding says you can be fairly liberal when salting your food.
Go Green (And Red, and Orange, and Yellow)
Anding likes to add hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables to her players’ plates whenever she can. “Fruits and vegetables are the hydration that you chew,” Anding says. Apples, cantaloupes, peaches and carrots all consist of more than 85% water. Keep them in your bag on a hot day.
Learn more about foods that hydrate.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Don’t wait for painful cramps to set in before you swap water for a sports drink. Sports drinks are high in carbs and electrolytes, which can keep those muscle pains at bay. Anding encourages the Texans to start sipping Gatorade as soon as they step onto the field. The sweet taste of sports drinks can be hard for some to tolerate, so acclimate yourself to the flavor of your team’s sport drink before the start of two-a-days. Find out what drink options your team will offer and sip them occasionally in the weeks leading up to camp. If your team doesn’t offer a sports drink, experiment to find the one that works best for you, and drink it at intervals throughout practice.
Don’t cram down food before an early practice—that breakfast burrito could wind up on your shoes after the first sprint. But Anding says you can’t go into a workout on an empty stomach, either. One option: Take in liquid calories, which leave your stomach more quickly than solid food. Whip up a smoothie with Greek yogurt, fruits and ice the night before, or down a shake with carbs and protein on your way to practice. Both options are high in carbs to fuel your workout and protein to prevent muscle breakdown.
Keep Your Calories Up
It’s hard for athletes to keep weight on during summer two-a-days. Losing precious pounds of muscle makes it more difficult to explode off the line or power past a defender for a reception. To help keep their weight steady, Anding encourages the Texans to choose high calorie options at dinner. She says, “They might [eat] carved beef tenderloin, pasta or macaroni and cheese if they want.” When you’re working out hard, you can indulge. “A lot of people think pro athletes can’t have sweets, but that actually doesn’t make sense. If I’ve got a guy who can eat 5,000 calories a day, he’s probably one of the few Americans who can have dessert on a regular basis.”
RELATED: Beat the Heat and Dominate Two-a-Days
Snacks You Can Pack
If you don’t have access to a fridge, stash some of the following foods in your gym bag.
Beef Jerky and Crackers
“Jerky is really high in sodium, and it’s protein that doesn’t spoil, because it’s dehydrated. Try it with some crackers,” Anding recommends.
PB&J with Fruit
“If you’re going to film study after practice, it’s pretty inexpensive to make two PB&J’s with some fruit from the fridge and pack it as a lunch.”
“There are a lot of bars out there, from CLIF bars to Powerbars to Gatorade bars, that you could easily have as a snack [between] practices.”