It's that time of year when the weather begins to warm and ruining your workout by being dehydrated is much more likely. Despite constant encouragement by sports professionals, many athletes find it difficult to hydrate during the day prior to or after a workout. Their reason is sometimes that plain water just isn't palatable. The truth is that many other fluid options hydrate...
1. Coffee or tea
In the past, coffee and tea were characterized as fluids that should be avoided by athletes at any cost due to caffeine levels. What we know now is that it actually takes a large volume of these (or any) caffeinated beverages before there is actually a dehydrating effect. So, keep that morning cup of joe, but try to limit yourself to a total of 4 cups or less of caffeinated beverages daily. Already way over that amount? Try half caff (you may not even notice) each time you drink coffee or tea. One caveat: realize that many energy drinks are much higher in caffeine than a basic cup of coffee or tea. Your caffeine intake should be no more than 500mg per day (at the most!) but ideally closer to 300mg. So check those energy drinks and adjust accordingly. Like chocolate-covered espresso beans? That caffeine counts too! And try to limit caffeine intake after ~3pm, as it can interfere with sleep.
2. Low-fat milk
This "milk" can be soy milk, lactose-free milk, organic milk....whatever you like. Just pick a low-fat, calcium-fortified version to cut back on unnecessary saturated fat and increase the nutrients you are receiving from that milk. If you only drink rice milk or almond milk, try switching to another type of milk if you consider this your protein source. Rice milk and almond milk have close to zero protein.
3. 100% fruit juice
Notice the percent: 100. So I'm not talking about Tang, Hi-C, or Fruit Punch. Check right above the food label and make sure it reads, "100% juice". Many juices appear to be 100%, but are actually fruit drinks. And stay away from the "low-calorie" juices, which are either watered down or pumped with artificial sweeteners. Because of these two facts, oftentimes you'll end up drinking more than you would have of the real stuff, which means taking in the same, if not more calories than the 100% juice. Regardless, limit juice intake to no more than 6-8 ounces daily.
4. Water + fruit
Here is a great way to give water some flavor without turning to artificial sweeteners. Try adding one or a combination of the following to your water: lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit, cucumber, strawberries, pineapple, mint leaves, or basil leaves - or whatever else sounds good to you! This can be very refreshing - particularly on a hot, sunny day. Why am I not a fan of artificial sweeteners? Sweeteners are chemically processed in a way that makes them sweeter than real sugar. That means that, over time, you may start to prefer foods sweeter and sweeter (which may be why some athletes don't like plain water in the first place). So, if you want to drink something flavored with one of these sweeteners, stick to one drink/can per day max (this includes drinks such as diet soda, Crystal Lite, etc.).
5. Sparkling water
If you're looking for a better alternative to diet soda, this is it. Sparkling water that comes in a can (such as Lacroix) is easy to take along with you, but contains more flavor than plain water. The key is to make sure no artificial sweeteners are added. Check the food label and look for simple ingredients. These often include carbonated water, sparkling water, natural flavor, mint, or even essence of cocoa. Flavors such as lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit are typically more likely to NOT contain artificial sweeteners. But beware: you may not want to drink anything carbonated right before a workout, as it can cause GI discomfort.
So choose your fluids wisely, and you may find that hydrating is much easier than you thought.