Fuel and Hydration…Just Do It!
How many of you neglect to eat and hydrate adequately during or after a run? How many of you simply forget to drink your sports solutions and sip water at aid stations? Hydration and fuel for your event are fundamental concepts, yet they are often discounted or repudiated. The key to optimal performance and adaptation to training is proper nutrition. For both athletes and couch potatoes, balanced diets are what will prevent disease and the onset of pernicious cognitive decline. To maintain energy levels and be fresh for a race, you need to consider planning meals according to their place on the glycemic index and time when you eat what type of food. This means leading up to race day, keeping high glycemic foods (high sugar, super refined, white starches) to a minimum, except immediately following an intense or long workout. Consuming sufficient intake of protein and good fats along with complex carbohydrates and other low-glycemic, slow release foods. Save any acute dietary changes for non-race weeks so that any unanticipated results will not negatively impact your performance.
During a race, your ability to execute at a high level is determined by the available fuel in your body. The principle fuel for high workloads is glycogen (the stored form of sugar in your liver). The amount of glycogen is limited as your muscles burn up what is readily available and then make the turn toward breaking down stored fat for energy. If your physical demands surpass the amount of quick release glycogen, you will become dependent on fat burning which is adequate for low-level intensity, but will cause the notorious “bonking” if you are attempting to maintain a hammer-fest when your body needs more sugar. To spare glycogen stores for the hard efforts, maintain a steady intake of small amounts of carbohydrate (e.g. gels, candy, Clif shot bloks, bananas bites) and eat before you feel hungry. If you wait until you are hungry, your body has already seceded from its previous intensity and you will begin dragging unnecessarily.
Hydration is considered by most sports authorities to be the most important aspect of nutrition and it is still the most overlooked. Avoid depleting your body of precious fluids. Sometimes the sluggish feeling isn’t because of depleted glycogen at all, it’s that you are dehydrated. Pre-hydration is just as important as remaining hydrated during training and competition. As you sweat and lose fluid, your plasma volume decreases causing your heart rate to increase to produce the same output of blood. While training, aim for 12-20oz. of fluid intake per hour. Drink as often as possible, especially on hot days. If you hear sloshing in your stomach, back off. This means that your body is having difficulty digesting and assimilating nutriment. A general guideline for fluid consumption during exercise is ~10oz. 15-20 minutes. During exercise that exceeds one hour, drinking a light solution of carbohydrate and sodium can increase the rate of absorption. A 2 percent reduction of body weight from fluid loss will slow a racer by about 4 perfect.If you find salt crusted on your body and clothing after a run, you need to take extra care in replacing sodium and potassium which both influence the function of your heart. Some people sweat more than others and you’ll have to play around with what works for you. Hydration systems such as Hydrapak and Amphipod hand-helds make carrying water convenient and comfortable and they are the remedy to any excuse you fabricate as to why you aren’t drinking.
Make sure you drink throughout the day, every day. Keep track of how often you visit the restroom and, at the risk of sounding vulgar, take a notice of the color of your urine as it can indicate if you should drink more. Be careful not to over-hydrate, it can be just as dangerous as becoming dehydrated. Find the balance and listen to your body.
The quickest way to accelerate recovery immediately following a race or workout is to ingest around 60 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrate along with around 20 grams of complete protein and begin replacing fluid. This is where sports drinks and protein shakes are more than just sugary beverages, they really aid in athletic improvement. A product that I really enjoy and I’d like to introduce other runners to is Orgain, an organic nutritional shake with 16 grams of protein, 10 certified organic fruits and veggies, 23 vitamins and minerals and it is free of soy, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and corn syrup. It only contains around 30 grams of carbohydrate, so I recommend eating a banana or some pretzels with the drink. You can also make your own recovery sports drink by filling up half of a water bottle with water, 1/4 bottle juice, 1/4 tsp. table salt, 1/4-1/2 tsp. sugar and top off the rest with water.