When it comes to maximizing your physical performance, there are three crucial components you need to consider: hydration, fluids, and fuel. All three work together to enhance and improve your workouts. If any of these three elements are out of whack, you can kiss optimal performance goodbye.
Here is an overview of what’s most important when it comes to the hydration, fluids and fuel your body and mind need to achieve peak performance—from coconut water to sea salt protein chips, we’ve got you covered.
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All bodily processes, from digestion and circulation, to maintaining an optimal core temperature, rely heavily on water. Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe, and include issues such as lack of energy, painful muscle cramping, and unproductive brain fog. Most people are well aware of the risks associated with dehydration, but few truly understand the surprising benefits of drinking more water.
Hydration improves digestion (thus reducing bloating and indigestion), cognitive function, supports emotional regulation, and generally boosts your mood. Research has shown that even mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance and mood.
Far too many people only focus on avoiding dehydration instead of intentionally seeking all the benefits that optimal hydration brings. By staying well-hydrated, you can help to ensure that you are functioning at your best physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It is recommended that the average person drink eight 8-ounce glasses each day, although the amount required will fluctuate based on factors like physical activity and climate. Of course, if you’re pushing your body to its limits, it will require more hydration to replenish what is being lost. If you’re drinking enough water to keep feelings of thirst at bay, and your urine is a pale yellow hue, you’re likely in a good hydration zone.
Water might be the most crucial fluid for hydration, but it’s certainly not the only one to focus on. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are electrolytes that play a critical role in maintaining a healthy fluid balance in the body. Electrolytes are lost along with water when you sweat, and left unreplaced, cramping, fatigue, and other negative effects can arise, kicking any chance of maximized performance to the curb.
Drinking sports drinks that include electrolytes is one approach to make sure you’re sufficiently replenishing them. However, many of these products pack a significant caloric, sugary punch—which might be tasty but unnecessary from a performance perspective.
Instead, try mixing electrolyte powder or tablets into your water; most health food stores and pharmacies carry electrolytes in this form for hydration replenishment in the purest form. Another refreshing, health-conscious option is to make your own electrolyte drink using coconut water (which is naturally high in potassium), and adding a pinch of sea salt to provide other essential minerals.
Last but by no means least, let’s discuss sources of energy. When it comes to peak performance, the nutrition you fuel your body with is equally as crucial as the fluids you drink. A diet rich in carbs, protein, and healthy fats is essential for meeting your body’s energy demands.
All of these components are essential for maintaining an adequately fueled system, but protein is the one that often gets a good deal of the focus. Muscle tissue is built and repaired with the assistance of protein, which also has a crucial function in many other bodily processes, such as the synthesis of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Muscle loss, exhaustion, loss of strength, and fatigue are all potential signs of your body not getting enough protein, especially after an exercise or injury.
Your daily protein intake should be at least 0.8 gms per kg of body weight, although the exact amount needed will vary depending on your age, gender, level of activity, and goals; you will likely require more if you are an athlete, doing stretching exercises for sciatica pain, or trying to build up your muscle mass.
The good news is that protein-rich foods are plentiful and varied, and not only limited to animal products. Protein is essential, yet not all proteins are created equal. Complete proteins, which include all nine essential amino acids, are more commonly found in food sources derived from animals; plant-based proteins, on the other hand, may be lacking in one or more essential amino acids. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s best to eat from a range of plant-based protein sources to ensure you’re getting all the amino acid action you need.
Protein powders and bars are a handy option for increasing your protein intake, although a protein-rich diet should always be prioritized. Novel protein snacks are always emerging, such as protein chips, which can help with junk food cravings while delivering a boost of protein and replacing some lost salts.
Take a holistic approach
Listen to your body and make adjustments as necessary, as no two peoples’ hydration, fluid and fuel needs are identical. Pay attention to how your body reacts to different strategies and adapt accordingly to meet your body’s individual demands.
Finally, keep in mind that maximizing performance is about more than just your training routine. How you treat your body while you’re not working out is just as important, so be sure to make these and other smart choices part of your daily life.