THE ATHLETIC ADVANTAGE
Summer has ended and the school year is about to commence. With fall sports in full swing, we have to remind our young athletes about the importance of being healthy on and off the field. Wellness is an integral part of an athlete’s career and should be discussed on a daily basis. These young men and women are inundated with their school schedule, early morning practice, and after school activities and rarely think about the extra curricular sometimes forgetting to eat or drink while becoming hyponatremic and dehydrated in the South’s heat!
Hyponatremia and dehydration are hot topics among trainers, dieticians and nutritionist alike. The term hyponatremia means an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood. We sweat out these nutrients when exercising. Drinking more water in this situation without replenishing our electrolytes, namely sodium, could have detrimental effects on our bodies. Sodium acts at the cellular level by regulating the amount of water in and around the cells. When drinking more water we dilute the concentration of sodium especially when our intake of sodium is already low. Our cells become larger, this is the process of swelling. The symptoms of hyponatremia are very similar to those exhibiting heat exhaustion; both should be treated equally as important.
Our coaches used to have signs in the restrooms that looked like golden rod paper. It stated, “Athletes, if your urine is this color, DRINK more WATER!” Simplistic eye openers every time these young people turn around, like the paper in the restroom, are used as reminders to stay hydrated.
As Americans we follow the Standard American Diet, or SAD diet. The acronym describes this diet perfectly in my opinion especially when talking the athletic realm. Most countries don’t know the term diabetes, yet America is one of the largest populations diagnosed with diabetes. It is unfortunate to see the population diagnosed is getting younger. In general, as medical professionals, we can all agree that most patients diagnosed with diabetes have these habits in common:
- Salting food before tasting it
- Drinking 3-4 sugary beverages each day
- Fast food 4-5 times per week
- Over 40% of calories from fat
- Using sweets as an energy source
- Eating red meat and consuming dairy daily
This sounds a lot like our pre game or post game meals. I remember playing baseball and after games would be so hungry we ate double cheeseburgers regularly, and of course with salty fries and a coke. That meal alone hit every one of the bullet points listed above. I say this because I was once that bulletproof athlete. Now we have more resources and can actually cure diabetes with diet and exercise. That is exciting as a physician because it is a curable disease and we can easily treat our patients by educating them and giving them the resources needed to be healthy.
As one of the high school doctors, I strongly encourage my athletes to promote healthy lifestyles by keeping each other accountable with their workouts and diet routines. Proper hydration, electrolytes like the ones provided by Klean Athlete, and a solid diet are all keys to an athletic advantage.