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Tags: salt | sugar | limit | exercise

Summer Exercise: One Time It's Best Not to Limit Salt and Sugar

Summer Exercise: One Time It's Best Not to Limit Salt and Sugar
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By    |   Thursday, 10 August 2017 01:31 PM EDT

Summer time activities can wreak havoc on your health. For example, dehydration can be deadly, say experts, if you overdo outdoor exercise without drinking enough fluid.

But it’s not only fluid loss that can cause serious summer side effects. We may also lose valuable nutrients like sodium and sugar that can lead to muscle cramping, confusion, and even lack of consciousness.

Although health experts generally advise limiting consumption of salt and sugar, it’s not a good idea to do so if you’re engaging in vigorous exercise during warmer summer months.

“You don’t need special sports drinks or powers bars to fuel summer workouts,” says notes sports medicine expert Dr. Gabe Mirkin, of Orlando. The elite athlete tells Newsmax Health that most healthy and fit folks get the nutrients they need from ordinary foods but hot weather warriors need extra water, salt, and sugar to maintain optimum function.

The Gatorade Sports Institute recently published a study showing 46 percent of recreational exercisers can become dehydrated playing summer sports. But Mirkin points out that while it may not affect their performance, dehydration can increase your risk of fatigue, heat exhaustion, blood clots, and even stroke.

But it’s also true that too much fluid can lead to a potentially fatal condition called hyponatremia in which the body’s salt levels become diluted. The fluid moves from the body through the bloodstream into the brain which maintains its normal level of sodium causing swelling, nausea and blurred vision.

Eventually the person can become confused, have seizures or pass out. Mirkin says this is a medical emergency and requires immediate hospital care.

Although the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a fluid intake of five cups or two average water bottles per hour during hot weather exercising, for someone who is not in shape or not exercising to the maximum, this can be far too much fluid.

Low levels of sugar can cause muscle pain and weakness – known as hitting the wall – that occurs in long distance runners, as well as confusion or passing out in cyclists.

“Your muscles use primarily sugar and fat for energy,” notes Mirkin. “You have an almost infinite amount of fat stored in your body, but you start to run out of sugar which is stored in your liver after 70 minutes of intense exercise.

“Your brain has almost no stored sugar, so it gets all of its energy from the sugar carried to it from the bloodstream. When your liver sugar levels drop, your blood sugar levels also drop and your brain loses normal function. You feel weak, tired and confused and can even pass out.”

Since muscles also have a limited amount of stored sugar, they too will begin to weaken when blood sugar levels dip.

“I recommend taking sugar five minutes before exercising and during the competition or workout if necessary,” he advises.

The only mineral you need during hot weather exercise is sodium, says Mirkin.

“Potassium, calcium, and magnesium deficiencies rarely occur in healthy athletes,” he says. “Salt is necessary to hold water in your body, prevent muscle cramps, and keep your muscles contracting with force.”

If you do not meet your needs for salt during periods of extended hot weather activity, you will tire earlier and increase your risk of heat stroke, dehydration, and cramps. Mirkin recommends eating salty nuts and potato chips during vigorous outdoor activity.

“Some sports drinks contain salt but they taste awful and the amount added is so small it may not meet your needs,” says Mirkin. “One study showed that you cannot replace the salt lost through exercise by drinking sports drinks that contain salt, since they are typical contain very little.”

Mirkin‘s recommendations:

  • When you exercise casually in hot weather, listen to your body. Drink water when you are thirsty, eat fruit when you are hungry, and eat salted peanuts, nuts or chips if you exercise in the sun for more than a few hours.
  • If you are competing in sports that last more than 70 minutes, take a source of sugar, such as jelly beans or a sugared drink, a few minutes before you start and during your event.
  • If you are competing more than two hours, take a food source of sugar such as fruit, cookies or candy bars. You don’t need special energy bars since almost all candies and pastries contain both glucose and fructose.

© 2023 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Health experts generally advise limiting consumption of salt and sugar, as part of a healthy diet. But there's one exception to this rule: It's not a good idea to do so if you’re engaging in vigorous exercise during warmer summer months.
salt, sugar, limit, exercise
Thursday, 10 August 2017 01:31 PM
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