Oranges, lemons, agave and salt

Ingredients for Citrus Quencher

How hydrated you are during long runs or bike rides can determine if you will thrive or wither during your exercise session.

Exercise causes your body temperature to increase, the extent to which depends on your exercise intensity, exercise duration, the climate, the clothes you are wearing and your metabolic rate.  In order to cool your body and lower your body temperature, your body begins to sweat.  This sweat is made up of water and electrolytes.

Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and calcium, are minerals that carry electrical charge, which are essential for regulating fluid balance, muscle contraction, nerve function and acid base balance.

When you are not adequately hydrated when exercising, you become dehydrated.  Exercising in a dehydrated state can impact your performance and/or health in a bad way.

Dehydration can lead to:

  • increased heart rate
  • loss of coordination
  • compromised mental concentration
  • muscle fatigue
  • inability to regulate body temperature
  • heat illness, such as cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • decreased energy and athletic performance
  • increased risk of gastrointestinal upset

Don’t rely on your thirst mechanism to determine if you are adequately hydrated;  once you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.

There are two ways you can determine if you are adequately hydrated:

1. Body weight before and after exercise

2. Urine color


1. Body weight before and after exercise

You can determine your sweat loss by weighing yourself before and after exercise.  Weigh yourself in the nude, then subtract your post-training weight from your pre-training weight.

Any weight lost is likely due to fluid losses. The table below can help identify hydration status:

%Body Weight Change

Well Hydrated -1 to +1%
Minimal Dehydration -1 to -3%
Significant Dehydration -3 to -5%
Serious Dehydration -5%

A weight loss of greater than 1% indicates mild dehydration and a weight loss of greater than %5 indicates serious dehydration.  Replenish with about three cups of fluid per pound lost.

2. Urine color

The second, and easiest way to determine if you are adequately hydrated,  is by checking the color of your urine.  A very light color of urine (think lemonade) means you are well hydrated. The darker the urine (think apple juice)  the more dehydrated you are.

On the other hand, an increase in weight means you are over-hydrated.  Drinking too much water can lead to hyponatremia.  Hyponatremia indicates an excess of water in relation to the amount of salt in your body. This can lead to serious medical conditions and even death.

What to drink?

Although water is the first and best choice when hydrating during an exercise session, there are times when a sports drink can be beneficial.  Studies show that when you are exercising at high intensity for 45-75 minutes, small amounts of a sports drink, even a mouth rinse, can improve your exercise performance.  It seems to be only effective then you are exercising in a fasted state, such as an early morning exerciser, when exercising several hours after eating or when you are not getting enough carbohydrates in your diet in general.

For exercise sessions that last 1-2.5 hours, getting 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour, has been found to be beneficial. Choose a sportsdrink with a carbohydrate concentration of 6-8% and sodium of 460 to 690 mg/L. In other words an 8 oz serving or one cup should contain about 15 g carbohydrates and 110-165mg of sodium.

Ultra endurance exercise sessions of >2.5-3hours can benefit from up to 80-90 g carbohydrates per hour.

In addition, recent studies show that a carbohydrate mixture of glucose and fructose increases absorption of carbohydrates and in turn increases performance.

If you prefer fresh natural ingredients or are tired of the same sports drink, try making one yourself.  See my recipe below to help get you started.  The ideal carbohydrate concentration should range from 6-8%.

Citrus Quencher

Makes one quart.


1/4 cup agave syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 1/2 cups cold water


1. Add ingredients to a large pitcher and stir.  Chill for several hours for most refreshing taste.




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Blueberry Smoothie in a glassAfter a long day at work, eating a portion-controlled snack, before hitting the gym, may be just what you need to boost your energy level and keep you from overeating at dinner.

If you plan to go to the gym at 6pm but had your last meal at 12 o’clock, your body is more in need of fuel than in need of an intense exercise session.  Plan to have your snack 2-4 hours before your workout and choose snacks that are high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber, for easy digestion.

If you only have a few hours before your exercise session, make your snacks smaller and easier to digest.  Basically, the closer your exercise session is, the smaller your snack should be.  Choose foods you’re familiar with and can tolerate well.


Here are 13 healthy and well-balanced snacks that are quick, easy and healthy to boot:

  1. Half a PB & J sandwich.
  2. Smoothie with fruit, non-fat yogurt and/or soy-milk.
  3. Half a turkey sandwich.
  4. Frittata-To-Go with an English Muffin.
  5. Oatmeal with soy or non-fat milk with a banana or raisins.
  6. Low- or non-fat yogurt, cottage cheese or ricotta cheese with fresh fruit and flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with Agave nectar.
  7. Half a pita with avocado and a hard boiled egg.
  8. Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts.
  9. Pretzels and fresh fruit.
  10. Cold cereal with nonfat milk/soymilk and fruit.
  11. Fig Newtons with a glass of nonfat milk.
  12. Hummus with baby carrots.
  13. Xocolate Energy Bars.

Although real food should always be your first choice for optimal nutrition, sports bars, gels and chews can be a good option when you don’t have time to prepare or pack a snack.  They are portable, don’t have to be refrigerated and are easy to eat.

Also, it’s important that you stay hydrated, especially when exercising in the summer and outdoors.  When you feel thirsty you’re fluid levels are already too low.   Try to drink plenty of water throughout the day and if you can, throughout your workout session. Be careful you don’t overdo it either. Overhydration can cause hyponatremia, which means having abnormally low blood sodium levels.  Hyponatremia is dangerous and can be fatal.

When you are exercising for more than one hour or you are exercising in hot/humid conditions, a sports drink with electrolytes can help you get the fluid and electrolytes you need, see my post on hydrating during exercise. Click HERE


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