Nutritional Snowshoeing…With Suzanne Farrell, RD

Is it better to drink plain old water while exercising, or should I choose a sports drink…and how much fluid do I actually need?

I recommend sports drinks for exercise lasting longer than one hour and they can also be very beneficial in hot, humid conditions. Sports drinks provide fluid, energy and electrolytes. If you are snowshoeing for a few hours, then sports drinks not only help keep you hydrated, but can offer some performance benefits.

For moderate work outs less than 60 minutes, water is absolutely great. Water helps lower and normalize your body’s core temperature from inside when you’re hot and it moves quickly from your digestive tract to your tissues.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary fuel source. During a moderate to hard endurance work out, we deplete carbohydrates from muscle glycogen stores, and rely on blood sugar for energy. By consuming carbohydrates during exercise, such as in a sports drink, your muscles will have an added source of fuel. It will also help maintain normal blood sugar level, so you can exercise longer.

As we perspire, the body loses small amounts of sodium and other electrolytes. A normal, balanced diet can typically replace what is lost for most athletes, but endurance athletes who perspire much more are at greater risk for sodium depletion. Drinks with electrolytes help enhance fluid absorption during exercise lasting longer than one hour, or for exercise in high heat or humidity.

What to Look For:

Carbohydrates: 6-8 percent carbohydrate or 14-19g carbohydrates per 8 oz.

Because of the higher sugar content, drinks with greater than 8 percent, such as fruit juices and soft drinks can take longer to be absorbed and they may cause cramps, diarrhea or nausea.

*Locate grams of carbohydrate and the servings size in milliliters on the label (8 oz is about 240 ml)
*Divide the grams of carbohydrate by the serving size (in ml) and multiply by 100 to determine the percentage of carbohydrates.
*Example: 16 g carbohydrate/240 ml X 100= 7%.

Sodium: 100 mg/8 oz

Watch out for carbonation. They are harder to drink and can cause gas.

How Much Fluid?

To stay hydrated during activity, drink fluids throughout the day, not just after your work out.

Two hours before activity: Two cups

15 minutes before activity: One to two cups

Every 15 minutes during activity: Half to One cup

After activity: Three cups for each pound lost 24-48 hours after.