Beat the Heat With Energizing Summer Nutrition

Summer is the perfect time to take your exercising outside! Bike riding, swimming, beach volleyball and canoeing are all great options to stay active. For people with cystic fibrosis (CF), exercise is very important. Physical activities help lung function and improve overall endurance. However, while exercise has many benefits, it's important to be careful so that you don't drain your body of calories, salt and fluid. Following, please find my top tips to keep in mind when you're out having fun exercising.

Snack attack

Any physical activity is going to burn calories. However, for people with CF who already need to eat more food to get more calories than people without CF, exercising can be a challenge. In order to eat enough so that you do not lose weight, I recommend eating high-calorie snacks before and after exercising. Trail mix with nuts, cheese and crackers, ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate milk are all high in calories and can help provide the necessary salt, vitamins, carbohydrates, and protein needed in a CF diet. These snacks will keep you going even when you've been outside burning calories.

Up the salt (sodium chloride)

Adding more salt than you usually do to your diet on the days when you exercise can help prevent dehydration. Foods such as pretzels, chips, crackers, ramen noodles, and even pickles are great ways to increase your salt intake and help replace the salt your body loses when you sweat. Milk has salt in it and chocolate milk is a great drink after exercise since it has carbohydrates, fat, protein, and sodium. Chocolate milk and a salty snack are great after exercising. Think about increasing salt in your meals and snacks by using high-salt foods and by adding table salt. Look at food labels for sodium and pick the foods with higher sodium.


Exercising in the summer will make you sweat. That's why it is important to keep hydrated by drinking enough fluids. Sports drinks will replace the water you lose from sweating and they have some salt, but someone who has CF needs more salt. You can add extra salt to the sports drink by putting 1/8 teaspoon of salt in a 12-ounce bottle of sports drink. The extra salt will send a message to your brain that you want to drink. Without extra salt you may not feel like drinking. Staying hydrated will even make you feel better before and after your workouts. Drink before, during, AND after exercise.

Exercise is something you can enjoy with your family and friends. Just remember to be smart and snack, hydrate and keep your salt intake up! Don't let your CF keep you indoors. Get out and enjoy the summer! Check out some other snack ideas here and talk to your CF center dietitian for more ideas.

Have fun!
Suzanne Michel, MPH, RD, LDN
Clinical Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina