“The USDA has found that watermelon actually stimulates the release of excel perspiration, so heat stroke will not be on your radar so long as you have a cold one in your hands.”—11 Foods That Help Prevent Heat Stroke | Eat This Not That
It’s that time of year, back to school. With the start of school comes all of the fall team sports’ practices in the August heat and humidity. From band camp to preseason soccer practice and all other sports in between, it is the sweaty time of year! With all that sweat comes the risk of dehydration. Despite coaches’ best efforts to encourage kids to drink, athletes often leave August practices depleted of essential fluids, salts, and electrolytes.
In fact, according to the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietician Association, the average athlete loses about 1-3 liters of sweat per hour of intense physical activity. With that loss of sweat is also salt, specifically, depending upon the size of the athlete, anywhere from 1,380 to 5,520 mg of salt per hour. Along with water and salt, the athlete is also losing significant amounts of chloride and potassium as well as smaller amounts of magnesium and calcium.
What’s more, losing as little as two percent of body weight in sweat can impede an athlete’s performance. Therefore, it is important for athletes to remember to hydrate before, during, and after practice. Maintaining electrolyte balance throughout the day is especially crucial when an athlete participates in two-per-day practices, which are often popular during the month of August.
Of course, electrolytes can be found in a wide variety of prepackaged sports drinks, but they can also be found in whole food sources. Salt is particularly easy to find by simply adding salt to foods and beverages; however, it can also be found in nuts/trail mixes, pretzels, and crackers. Meanwhile, broccoli, almonds, yogurt, and milk products are good sources of calcium, while peanut butter, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and beans (legumes) are high in magnesium. Potassium can be found in peaches, potatoes, kiwi, banana, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and watermelon!
Recently, my daughter, Maddie, came home red-face and sweat-soaked after an intense out-of-doors workout session. While she’s more than old enough to take care of herself, I couldn’t help but feel concerned about her level of hydration and asked what she thought about watermelon slushie. I asked this because I knew she loved watermelon, and I suspected it would be a refreshing way to rehydrate. She liked the idea, so we talked about what a watermelon slushie could include, and together we came up with a recipe.
Obviously, the main ingredient had to be watermelon. But what else, if anything, should be added? Maddie suggested collagen powder because it is a great source of protein and would not detract away from the taste-star of the show, watermelon. Of course, if it was going to be a slushie, we both knew it would also need ice. Then, she suggested lime juice–not too much, just a hint of it, and she further suggested sweetening it up a bit with a teaspoon of sugar combined with a packet of her favorite stevia brand. We threw it all together in a blender and hoped for the best!
It turned out better than we had hoped! We have since made it three more times and have found, the sweeter and riper the watermelon, the better the slushie. However, we did learn a couple of taste notes. First, if you are not a salt with watermelon person, don’t add the salt. Secondly, too much lime can overwhelm the slushie, especially if you are not particularly fond of the flavor of lime.
On the nutritional side, it is worth noting that watermelon is nearly 92 percent water! In addition to being high in potassium, it is also a good source of magnesium and calcium. It contains l-citrulline which may help alleviate muscle soreness associated with intense exercise. Furthermore, watermelon is a good source of a multitude of vitamins and antioxidants making it a fantastic exercise recovery fuel!
Here’s to all those summer athletes of ALL ages. No matter what age, if you’re exercising or working out-of-doors in the August heat, then you’re sure to be sweating! So rehydrate with the sweetheart of summer fruits: watermelon. And, if you’re feeling a little frisky, you could also make this recipe and add in a splash or two of your favorite adult spirits for a cool, light-hearted, and refreshing cocktail hour on the home patio or deck.
Regardless of the variation you choose to make, stay safe and hydrated during these dog days of summer.
Maddie’s Watermelon Replenisher
4 cups cubed, seedless–or seeds removed– watermelon
2 servings favorite collagen powder (can substitute vegan version or scoop unflavored protein powder)
2-4 packets of Stevia or other favorite sweetener (can substitute 2-4 teaspoons of sugar or use a combination of the two, which is what we do)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon lime juice–depending upon taste preference
Dash of salt, if you’re a “salt on watermelon” person
2-3 cups of ice
Blend all ingredients in blender until slushy consistency.
Divide into two large glasses.
Garnish with lime slice or mint leaves if desired.
Makes 2 large or 4 small slushies