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Triathlon Nutrition – Hydration


February 2012

I’ve been all over the map through the years when it comes to hydration.  During the summer, especially with my vastly increased training miles last year (up 1,000% season over season) you could rarely catch me without a water bottle in my hand.  Basically it was water and Coke for me up until my sweat stopped tasting salty – some time in July if memory serves.  It only took me a couple of days to figure out what was going on and I started with the Gatorade after an extended training session for a few weeks and things returned to normal.  Part of my problem in this regard was due to naivete.  I believed the notion that most Americans take in too much salt as a part of their daily diet as it is.  This may be true for “most” Americans, but obviously not this one.  Since that experience, I’ve added chocolate milk to my “immediately after” lunch menu because of it’s high replacement value on the suggestion…

Whoa – just interrupted mid thought by this on TV:

Pure unadulterated AWESOME.

Back to the post… on the suggestion of one of the blogs I follow (I wrote about that here).  I’m sure that replacing my carbs (and some protein too) afterwards had big implications in getting back to square after the long push last week.  In the summer I always run with water – I’ve got one of those water bottles with a strap so I can comfortably carry water without having to squeeze the bottle to hold on.  During winter runs – not so much.  I drink a lot of water before and after but rarely during but I’m thinking about changing that.

On multiple event workout days though, I usually mix water and Gatorade.  On my bike I’ve got a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water and I keep Gu Rocktane Cherry/Lime* and Pineapple with me (all of the refuel and digestibility of a regular Gu, but it tastes good too).  I’ll hit the water while I’m riding to the running club, carry water through the run then start hitting the Gatorade on the ride home.  I used to hate carrying water while I ran and I would try to muscle through without it but I’ve found that I run a lot better and I don’t tire as easily when I can take a drink from time to time.  On a 30 mile day in 85 degree heat, it’s an absolute requirement, and this summer I’ll be bumping that up to 40 and 50…  I wonder if Gu is publicly traded?.

*Cherry/Lime Roctane contains caffeine.  Caffeine is a diuretic, in other words, it makes you pee – it flushes water from your system and having to stop in a race sucks so use this one sparingly.  Pineapple does not contain caffeine.  [UPDATE:  Caffeine may not be as bad as once thought – it tends to depend on your definition of diuretic…  I can tell you I won’t worry so much about the Cherry/Lime any more…and they taste better].

Cruising the net this morning I found a few important tips from the USDA.  The first one, don’t wait till you’re thirsty to start drinking, is actually quite big and I really didn’t think about this too much before last year.  I picked the tip up from one of the guys at the running club and it makes a big difference.  My goal is to hit the water bottle before I sense my mouth drying out.  The timing took a little getting used to.  There’s also this:

“It is now believed that fluid replacement drinks containing between 6 and 8 percent glucose or sucrose are absorbed into the body more rapidly than water, but unlike water, can provide energy to the working muscle that water cannot. A growing body of evidence suggests that consumption of a fluid replacement drink containing carbohydrates can delay fatigue and possibly improve performance. It appears that athletes who consume a fluid replacement drink can maintain blood glucose levels at a time when muscle glycogen stores are diminished. This allows carbohydrate utilization and energy production to continue at high rates. Beverages containing more than one kind of sugar (i.e. glucose and fructose) can increase carbohydrate absorption rates because each sugar is absorbed via different channels”.

And this (that I already alluded to earlier):

“The ingestion of sodium during exercise may help with maintenance or restoration of plasma volume during exercise and recovery. The consumption of fluid replacement drinks containing sodium helps retain water in the body and aids in hydration by increasing the absorption of fluid from the intestines into the muscles. Recent research has suggested that a 6-8 percent carbohydrate sport drink with about 110 mg of sodium per 8 oz. serving empties from the stomach just as fast as plain water.

There has been concern by parents, coaches, and athletes that sports drinks may contain too much sodium. In fact many fluid replacement drinks are low in sodium (refer to Table 5 for examples). An 8 oz. serving of a fluid replacement drink can have a sodium content similar to that of a cup of 2 percent milk. Most Americans consume too much sodium through processed and convenience foods, not through fluid replacement drinks”.
And some good bullet points:
  • For intense training and long workouts, a fluid replacement drink containing carbohydrates may provide an important source of energy. A 6-8 percent carbohydrate beverage is typically most effective in maintaining fluid balance while supplying the muscles with fuel.
  • The fluid consumed during activity should contain a small amount of sodium and electrolytes. The sodium may be beneficial for quicker absorption.
  • The beverage should be palatable and taste good.
  • The athlete should drink 10-16 ounces of cold fluid about 15-30 minutes before workouts. If the workout is prolonged, add carbohydrates to the beverage at a 6-8 percent concentration.
  • Drink 4-8 ounces of cold fluid during exercise at 15-20 minute intervals.
  • Start drinking early in the workout because thirst does not develop until 2 percent of body weight has been lost, by which time performance may have begun to decline.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, which can cause GI distress and may decrease the volume of fluid consumed.
  • Avoid beverages containing caffeine, alcohol, and those promoted as “energy drinks.”
  • If you have never used a fluid replacement drink, don’t use it for the first time during a game or on race day. Practice consuming fluids while you train. Use a trial and error approach until you discover the fluids that work well for you.
Happy Saturday

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