Monday, May 25, 2015

Take a Sip: Summer Gear to Prevent Dehydration

It’s May and, depending on where you live, the summer heat is either just around the corner or it’s already here! As the temperature rises, you lose more fluids through sweat and, consequently, you must hydrate more frequently during exercise. However, while many of us understand that we need to drink more fluids in balmy conditions, we tend to drop the ball when it comes to actually implementing our “during-workout” hydration strategy. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics we can utilize to combat our impediments to optimal hydration.

-         I forget to drink when I’m in the middle of an intense workout or a game.
o   Ask your coach to interrupt practice for more water breaks, even as often as every 15 minutes if it’s really hot.
o   If your coach isn’t onboard or you workout independently, wear a watch and set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself, “Could I use some water?” and follow through appropriately.
o   Gear option: Wear a wrist water bottle, which is a completely hands-free option, and refill it at regular intervals. This unique device ensures that water can be easily accessible and visible at all times.
-         There’s no time!
o   We often feel this way when we have to interrupt our workout to seek out water. Thus, the solution to this is to carry water with you at all times – if you make it a convenient option, time will not be an issue. Any water bottle will do, but large ones may be more convenient if you are engaging in an activity where you are remaining in the same general area; the larger the bottle, the less you have to refill it.
o   Gear option: if you are engaging in an activity where you are covering distance, carrying water becomes important. There are many options for this, ranging from simply carrying a 50-cent, light recyclable water bottle to a hydration pack system that you wear on your back. Depending upon your sport, finances and individual preferences, one of these options may make more sense for you. Other popular options include water belts and hand-held systems.
-         I hate carrying a bottle on runs.
o   Some of us are irritated by any extra weight while running, and even a small water bottle feels like too much. The solution is to make sure there is water available on your route and this can be accomplished in a few ways. 1) Recruit a very sympathetic running partner to carry your water bottle in their hydration pack, 2) run along a route where public water fountains are accessible, or 3) create a route, such as a circle, where you can run by your water bottle at regular intervals.
-         I’m not thirsty.
o   For athletes, thirst is generally a good guideline for water consumption to avoid hyper-hydration or hyponatremia. However, when considering hypohydration, some level of dehydration is an inevitable reality the longer we exercise. Research has demonstrated that, even with forced water consumption, it is nearly impossible for our body to consume and absorb sufficient fluids to keep pace with fluid losses in extended exercise situations (think longer than 1 hour) (Dunford, 2012, p. 255). Consequently, dehydration is frequently progressing even though we may not be thirsty. The practical solution? Drink at least a small amount of fluid every 15 minutes during exercise if you are exercising in hot conditions; you will likely be thirsty at this rate. Use flavored water if necessary to promote consumption. An even better solution?  Work with a registered dietitian to come up with a personalized hydration plan based upon urine color or specific gravity, sweat rate, level of activity and electrolyte needs. Such a strategy can also address optimal sport drink usage, gastrointestinal issues and other factors that may be impacting thirst.  

Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2012). Water and electrolytes. In Nutrition for sport and exercise. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Laura Jane Nitowski, BA, is a 2nd-degree undergraduate Nutrition and Dietetics student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. For her first undergraduate degree from West Chester University, she majored in English Literature and minored in Psychology. Laura is interested in writing about human nutrition and psychology. Within the broad realm of nutrition, Laura is fascinated by the role of nutrition in human athletic performance; the effects of macronutrient variability on appetite and health; as well as human behavior surrounding food and the behavioral impacts of our food environment. She is also passionate about integrative and holistic nutrition approaches that treat people as complex and unique individuals. Laura is happiest when she is in-motion: running, hiking, and weightlifting. Visit her at

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just a Bite: Fasting Cardio and Body Composition, Latest Research

"Well, my trainer wants me to do fasting cardio at least three days a week..." is a common comment I hear frequently.  The theory for the uninitiated is that one would burn fat resulting in greater fat loss versus the typical muscle/fat loss that comes from changing body composition.  

The Journal of the International Sports Society of Sports Nutrition recently published an article to bring additional clarity on the topic.  This article focuses on twenty women who are to follow a reduced calorie diet.  They either do cardio in a fasting or fed state.  

The researchers found that "[b]oth groups showed a significant loss of weight (P = 0.0005) and fat mass (P = 0.02) from baseline, but no significant between-group differences were noted in any outcome measure. These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training" (Schoenfeld, et al, 2014).  

The takeaway?  Keep encouraging a reduced calorie diet with physical activity to see results.  

Check out the full article here

Gina Volsko RDN, LD is the SCAN Blog Coordinator and writes on her own nutrition blog, Sport2Fork.  E-mail her at if you're interesting in joining the SCAN bloggers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just A Bite: #Dessertworthy Campaign

You may have fond memories of a family member who brought a spectacular apple pie to an annual Memorial Day barbeque.  There might be a particular bakery that has a blueberry scone worth the trip across town and  the Calories. All in all, dessert plays an important memory and sensory experience.  It can fit into a healthy lifestyle.  The problem is our “grab-and-go” culture: a croissant and cappuccino at breakfast, a slice of pizza and a cupcake in the break room at work...we can easily go off the sugar deep end. 

Emily Luchetti’s #dessertworthy manifesto is a beautiful slice of moderation of the better parts of eating—dessert.   Luchetti writes:

“Dessert is being consumed by adults and children at an alarming rate, resulting in troubling health issues, including Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Compelled to take action, award­winning pastry chef Emily Luchetti launched #dessertworthy in July 2014 to raise awareness about sugar­laden processed foods and to encourage saving desserts for a treat, not a daily occurrence. Ms. Luchetti, Chief Pastry Officer at Big Night Restaurant Group and Board Chairman of the James Beard Foundation, aims to spread the mission of #dessertworthy nationwide by 2016.”

With strict diet plans such as the Whole30 Diet, dessert seems out of reach for those looking to have better health but want something in moderation.  Luchetti was recently interviewed for Civil Eats here.
I love desserts and I think they really add a lot to our lives. If you’re having a birthday party or any other celebration, there’s a dessert there, and it’s something that makes an event more special. They have the power to give such pleasure, so I don’t want to see anyone giving up sweets completely when that’s not necessary. Let’s put them in their proper place. Let’s start asking which desserts are worthy to eat and which ones aren’t.”

Gina Volsko RDN, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator.  You can reach her at or read more of her work and antics at