At any time of year, it’s important that athletes take their hydration seriously. After all, dehydration is not conducive to peak exercise performance. But when the heat is on during the summer months, and hot, sweaty workouts are the order of the day, fluid needs are especially high. That’s why you need to make it a priority each day to take in enough water to stay hydrated. Just one problem: plain-Jane tap water might not excite you enough to keep on sipping or provide everything an active body craves.
Elevate your water with these thirst-quenching add-ins that can make drinking up pure joy.
Clean start: During periods of summer training, it’s likely that you are downing gallons of water to keep on top of your heightened hydration needs. So it’s a good idea to start with the cleanest fluid possible. But you shouldn’t rely on environmentally-sketchy bottle water for your hydration. Not just your average water filter, the ZeroWater countertop pitcher ($33; Zerowater.com) employs a multi-stage ion exchange filter that removes virtually all of the dissolved solids like lead, mercury and pharmaceuticals that can make their way into tap water. Now that’s something to drink to.
Chill factor: At this time of year, many athletes are traveling for races and training sessions. That makes it necessary to solve the problem of taking cold drinks with you on the go. The AVEX Freeflow Autoseal ($30; Avexoutdoor.com) has your back. You can fill it up with a frosty drink or post-workout smoothie, stick it a sun-baked car and still enjoy cold refreshment several hours later. In the winter, use it to keep liquids like hot chocolate toasty for many hours longer than your workout.
Here’s how to turn a glass of agua into a drink with proven performance boosting powers. In the past few years, research has singled out the high concentration of nitrates in the root vegetable for their ability to help you beat exhaustion. For instance, a recent American Journal of Physiology study determined that nitrates in beets can work to relax blood vessels and, in turn, lower blood pressure so your heart does not need to labor so hard to pump blood throughout your body. The end result is that oxygen can reach your working muscles easier allowing you to push the pace.
If you’re not about to invest in a juicer and don’t like the overly beety flavor of bottled beet juice, you’re in luck. You can now purchase ready-to-go beet powder that can be stirred into water as a means to flood your body with nitrates. Simply mix with 8 ounces of water about 2 hours before a workout. One to try is Healthy Skoop Ignite Performance Beet Blend ($24; Healthyskoop.com), which is mixed with pomegranate to make it easier on your taste buds.
Matcha, the green tea powder used for centuries in Japan, has crossed the Pacific Ocean and now a fixture in American hipster cafes and juice joints. And it’s worth taking notice of this current darling of the tea world. Since matcha is made by grinding tea leaves into a very fine powder when you drink the verdant elixir you’re consuming the entire tea leaf instead of just the liquid the leaves were steeped in. The upshot is that you’re going to take in a huge wallop of the disease-fighting antioxidants that green tea is hailed for. Athletes or those simply looking to shed a little extra pudge should take notice of a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study which discovered that antioxidants in tea may help improve fat burning during exercise. What’s more, matcha also delivers L-theanine, an amino acid shown to boost concentration and alertness without the jittery side-effects of downing too much java. You can now find matcha at a number of tea shops and health food stores or order a tin of U•Matcha Natural from The Republic of Tea.
But who is thirsty for a steamy mug of matcha during the height of summer? Thankfully, it can also be served on the rocks. Simply place 1 teaspoon matcha powder and a few ice cubes in a mason-style jar. Top with 8 to 12 ounces of cold filtered water, seal shut, and give a good shake. Bingo…instant coldbrew matcha. If desired, you can mix in a squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice.
In the season of sweaty workouts, athletes need to be especially prudent to keep on top of their electrolyte needs. Each bead of sweet that drops to the ground below as you push the pace, or sit in an un-airconditioned house, contains more than just water. In there you’ll find a mixture of electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Electrolytes are involved in a number of important functions like maintaining fluid balance in the body and helping with muscular contraction. So let levels dip too low and performance can suffer.
Thanks to a number of forward-thinking companies, no longer do you need to rely on sugary sports drinks to add some extra electrolytes into your diet. You can now turn regular old tap water into an electrolyte infused beverage without the sugary calories. One great option is the electrolyte spray bottle form EnduroPacks ($22.50; Enduropacks.com). Just squirt some into your water as part of a calorie-free hydration routine—before, during or after a spirited workout—without the worry of consuming mystery lab-created flavorings or colors. Another option to replenish electrolytes and keep hydrated is to drop Nuun All Day tablets into your water and enjoy a sugar-free extra dose of electrolytes, as well as other minerals and vitamins such as vitamin C that athletes need more of.
Ginger In Ice
If you want a great way to add “zing” to water, look no further than ginger ice cubes. Plop a few into a tall glass of H2O and as they melt they will infuse your water with palate-awakening ginger flavor along with compounds in the tuber that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory powers. To make your own, thinly slice about a 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger and place in a blender container along with 2 cups boiled water. Let steep for at least 30 minutes and then blend until smooth. Pour into ice cube molds and freeze until solid. You can also perform the same trick with fresh turmeric root.
Mint Sun Tea
If mint has gone wild in your garden, it’s time to put it to good use and employ the herb to make a calorie-free flavored drink to keep you hydrated as temperatures begin to soar. But why fire up the stove to steep mint leaves in hot water when you can make use of free energy via the yellow orb above? Place a handful of fresh mint leaves in a large glass jar (try the 32 ounce wide mouth Ball jar—Freshpreserving.com) and cover with about 4 cups of water. Seal shut and set out in a hot, sunny location to steep under the sun’s rays for several hours. You can also include a couple green or black tea bags or lemon slices in the water with the mint. This natural brewing method also works great for lemon balm or dried hibiscus.
Tart Cherry Concentrate
If you are going to add calories to your drinking water, consider puckering up. Research keeps piling up that the payload of antioxidants in tart cherries can be particularly beneficial to those with a passion for exercise. It seems that the antioxidants work to reduce post-training inflammation that can help in various ways such as lessening muscle pain. It’s not always easy to find fresh tart cherries at summer markets, but you can get a daily dose via tart cherry concentrate. After tart cherries are pressed into juice, the water can then be evaporated to form a syrupy liquid with intense cherry flavor and concentrated antioxidants.
Place a couple ice cubes in a glass, pour in 2 tablespoons cherry concentrate and fill with 8 to 12 ounces water. This is an especially great drink after a hard workout to recover better and quench your thirst. Look for tart cherry concentrate at some grocery stores or tract down bottles via a number of online outlets.