Challenges of Recovery Nutrition and Rehydration
By Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, USPTA and Benita Bobo, Dietetic Intern
Summer has finally arrived and along with the beautiful sunshine comes the more acute need to stay hydrated after your court time and as you prepare for the next day’s play. Higher heat and humidity translate to more sweating and a greater need to replenish lost electrolytes. Often, recovery nutrition is forgotten in the summer heat. The recommended quick protein recovery after match play is not desirable for many because of a decreased appetite as a side effect of playing in the heat. So what are the new, lighter protein recovery options that may be easier to swallow?
Priority goals for rehydration include supplying cool liquid to replenish lost fluids to the working muscles and to replace electrolytes lost in sweat. So starting with liquids, here are some new electrolyte beverages to consider that will help to replenish key minerals, especially sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium: Biolyte, Hoist, Gatorade’s Bolt24, V8 Hydrate, and Body Armour. Or you also can choose to stick with the classics: Gatorade or Powerade, but in extreme humidity or if you are a heavy sweater, you may benefit from higher electrolyte options such as Liquid IV and Pedialyte. Current scientific recommendations from the American College of Sport Medicine are to include sodium (0.5-0.7 gm per 1 liter of water) in the rehydration solution ingested during exercise lasting longer than one hour to enhance palatability and promote fluid retention. During matches, you should drink at least ½ cup to 1 cup in regular intervals, ideally during every changeover. This may require drinking both your sport beverage and water after play — in volumes up to 1 liter per hour — on hotter days to replenish sweat loss volume. Additionally, it is recommended that players continue to rehydrate until their urine color returns to a light, “lemonade” yellow color.
After tennis, hydrating should go hand in hand with recovery protein intake, which provides the building blocks to help tired muscles. But the more protein you consume, the more you need to hydrate. When protein is processed in your body, the byproducts (like nitrogen) are processed by the kidneys and excreted, which translates to the kidneys working harder, so this takes more fluid. Some great protein recovery drinks include Boost, Ensure, Muscle Milk, and newer products like Evolve, Orgain, and Gatorade Super Shake. It is recommended to consume 15-25 grams of protein within the hour after tennis play to enhance muscle regeneration. If protein recovery beverages feel too heavy in the heat, consider chocolate milk instead. If you drink 2 cups (1/2 liter) of cold chocolate milk, you will consume a minimum of 16 grams of protein and meet these recovery needs along with fluid, sodium, and calcium, another forgotten mineral lost in sweat that many other sport beverages do not replenish.
And let’s not forget about the temptation to drink alcoholic beverages after play, especially in the heat of summer. A cold beer, an extra glass of wine, or a refreshing cocktail may seem like a good idea, but sip in moderation! Research shows that alcohol does not promote recovery, and in some cases, impedes it. But the newer alterative NA (non-alcoholic) beverages can rehydrate and provide sodium to boot. So when you are craving that ice-cold beer, ask for popular choices such as Budweiser Zero, Heineken 0.0, or Athletic Brewing Company Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA.
One other issue to consider: As we age, we actually need more water for many reasons. First, there is a decrease in muscle mass and since muscles hold water, this can translate to a 20-percent reduction in body water composition. Additionally, older adults’ bodies are less efficient at regulating body temperature, which increases the risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heart problems. Lastly, thirst cues decline with age, so drink water even if you’re not thirsty because by the time you feel the thirst, you may already be dehydrated!
Keep the following recovery hydration tips in mind this summer:
- Bring both water and a sport beverage with adequate sodium to the court.
- Bring enough of each for after-court rehydration to continue drinking after play to bring your urine color back to normal.
- Bring a drinkable protein recovery option such as a moderate protein content recovery shake or chocolate milk.
- If you choose alcohol, continue to rehydrate with water and/or consider new non-alcoholic drink options.