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The Best Foods to Fuel a Summer Workout

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    The Best Summer Pre-Workout Foods

    We all know what it's like to hit your favorite gym class on a hot summer night. Even the air-conditioning on full blast won't keep you from leaving drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted. What if there were a way to combat this sluggish and overheated feeling by changing your pre-workout foods? Fueling a summer workout means planning ahead to replace fluid and electrolytes—aka salt—lost in sweat. Higher summer temperatures means more sweating and an increased chance of dehydration. If you don't replace those fluids, you risk feeling tired, sluggish, lightheaded, and nauseated. By choosing foods that are high in water and salt as pre-workout fuel, you'll feel energized and able to perform at your best. Read on for the best options.

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    Fresh Watermelon

    Not only is watermelon deliciously sweet in the summer, its 92 percent water content makes it hydrating and refreshing. It contains potassium that is lost in sweat, and watermelon juice has been shown to ease muscle soreness. Lastly, it's a great source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that may prevent exercise-induced inflammation.

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    Lettuce & Cucumbers

    Cucumbers and iceberg lettuce to get a bad reputation for their high water content, but that actually makes them perfect fuel for a summer workout. Nutritionists recommend that 20 percent of your water should come from food, and both of these foods contain over 90 percent water. Pile both cucumber slices and lettuce onto your sandwich to power you through your post-work gym session.

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    Iced Coffee & Iced Tea

    Although we don't usually think about our caffeine fix as a source of hydration, an 8-ounce cup of coffee or tea does contain 8 ounces of water. Indulging in your afternoon pick-me-up may actually help keep you hydrated during your workout. Studies have shown that having caffeine before a workout can actually boost athletic performance. Just make sure you get your coffee or tea fix two hours before your workout, because it can upset your digestive system.

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    Pretzels, Pickles & Olives

    What do all three of these foods have in common? They are extra salty. While too much sodium can cause hypertension and other health problems, a little extra salt is actually necessary when sweating excessively. Salt is lost in sweat, and replacing those salt losses will keep you hydrated. Try adding olives to a salad or pickles to a sandwich, or nosh on pretzels as a pre-workout snack.

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    Sport Drinks

    Sport drinks were actually created for athletes who were spending long hours exercising in the heat. They are the perfect combination of fluid, electrolytes and sugar to replace water and salt lost in sweat, as well as the carbohydrates that you use up during exercise. Keep in mind that sport drinks should only be drunk during exercise that lasts longer than an hour. Otherwise they're just excess calories.

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    Jazzed-Up Water

    Obviously water is the best source of hydration, but plain old water can be boring. Try jazzing up your water by adding fresh mint, berries, kiwis, melons, or cucumber. You can also make ice cubes out of fruit, like these delicious watermelon lime ice cubes. Add them to your water bottle for a naturally sweet taste.


Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a NYC based Registered Dietitian and the owner of Nutrition à la Natalie  Specializing in sports nutrition, Natalie helps busy, active people live  More →

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