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PSA - Hydrating for Sport

Posted Jun 19 2012 12:33pm
I haven't done a Public Service Announcement (PSA) in a long time but this one is needed.  I've had this one brewing in the back of my head for a long time and it's now been forced to the top.

In Northeast Ohio the weather has been making some wild swings temperature wise.  We have had some nice days in the 70's to be followed the next day with a 20 degree rise into the 90's.  It has made it hard to train for the extremes of race day, but everyone is in the same boat.




This past weekend at the Maumee Bay Tri/Du I saw some carnage caused by the heat/humidity as well as the efforts put forth by the athletes.  The sprint race wasn't too bad because the duration is about 1 hour shorter, but I was still feeling the effects of the heat and humidity since I was pushing the pace very close to the red-line.

Another reason to put this PSA out is for all of my Crossfit friends.  Some comments have gone out about being properly hydrated before the workouts, especially since we sometimes red-line ourselves during a WOD and are often indoors where the temp could be warmer than outside.  I couldn't agree more about being hydrated but I just wanted to add some of my own thoughts based upon my 10+ years as an endurance athlete. I am not a certified coach, nutritionist, or athletic trainer.  I do not have an educational background in exercise physiology or biomechanics or health.  This is just from experience.

This information is for EVERYONE.  All sports (cycling, running, swimming, Crossfit, soccer, volleyball, etc.).  All levels of experience.  I have met a lot of newbies in these sports that can learn something and perhaps a veteran athlete will help me learn something new.

Water
 So what does it mean to be properly hydrated.  Simply put it's having enough water in your body so the body can perform normal functions.  Your blood consists of approximately 70% water.  This helps move all of the nutritents, oxygen and other good stuff throughout your body.  Okay, basic function.

Water also helps move the bad stuff out of your body......think urine.  Sometimes the urine also has good stuff that the body just doesn't need anymore.

As we look a little bit deeper into the body, water also helps move electricity through our body.  Little electrical impulses that move to and from the brain telling our muscles to move or providing information from our senses.

Sweating
So when we are working out we get all gross and sweaty.  The body is using the water inside to try and cool us down.  The sweat carries the heat to the surface of the skin where it can be evaporated away.  Except when the humidity is too high.  Then the water has nowhere else to go and it just sits on the skin or soaks into our clothes.

We start to turn into a big salt lick because the water sitting on the skin is primarily loaded with sodium...salt.  There are also other minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium.  These minerals are also referred to as electrolytes.  These minerals help electricity move through the water in the body.....sounds kind of important to me.

Do you see some connections here?  Water = good.  Electrolytes in water = good.


Hydration
One comment I have a hard time with is to drink water until your urine is clear.  I prefer to see a light yellow color when I pee....think watered down lemonade.  If the urine is clear we may be hydrated, but we can also be over hydrated.  This can lead to the blood being thinner than usual and the electrolyte balance to be a little out of whack. 

In my experience, athletic performance is tied directly to my electrolyte balance.  If I have sweated profusely and have not replaced my sweat with the right type of fluid the body can't respond to my brain the way I want it to.  Signals don't get to where they need to be in a timely manner.

Of course I have usually experienced this with longer workouts and races that last over two hours.  Few  Crossfit workouts last longer than 30 - 45 minutes but the effects can last longer than the WOD.

Even a recovery bike ride or run can have a negative after effect if the sweat is pouring out of the body.

Back to this past weekend at Maumee Bay State Park.  I was watching some of the Olympic triathletes (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) crossing the finish line.  I watched the overall female winner cross the line and was beginning to shutdown.  Her movements were erratic as she tried to stabilize herself.  She needed some help getting to a chair.  I wouldn't be surprised if she needed an IV from the paramedics.  I saw several other people cross the finish line and fall into chairs or lean against the metal gates to collect themselves.  I'm sure they were spent from the effort put into racing but with the added stress of the heat/humidity the body was having trouble regulating its heat.

So how do we properly hydrate for exercising in extreme heat?  The market is flooded with products.  Some are advertised on TV (Gatorade, Powerade, Sobe) and some are advertised to specific markets via magazines (Nuun, Hammer, Clif, Gu). 

I'm not going to promote a specific brand because I use products from several companies.  It's also a personal choice based upon flavor, texture, desired affect, sweat rate, weight, sport, etc.  You see what I mean.

The latest "craze" is coconut water.  The new super drink with high amounts of electrolytes.  Personally I like this craze because I've seen it work and I drink it myself.  The problem is that the manufacturers sometimes have a hard time keeping up with demand.  Zico makes a great chocolate flavored coconut water that is near impossible to find right now.

One promotion I will make is for the company I buy my stuff from..... Great Race Nutrition .  I like this on-line retailer because they have a huge range of products, and most likely they are in stock.  The owner is an athlete himself with a great background in running, triathlon, cycling and has used the products he sells.  He understands the benefits of the products and can help someone figure out which product may work for them. 

So what do I do?  When I can't stand drinking plain water anymore I pop a tablet of Nuun into my water bottle.  They have some nice flavors and NO SUGAR.  During a race Nuun allows me to combine my fluid intake with Powerbar Gels without getting too loaded on carbs which could lead to stomach distress.

I also look for products that have a little higher amount of sodium/potassium than other products.  Through trial and error I know I need the sodium to keep my head on straight.  Without the proper electrolytes I loose focus.  This results in me falling off my nutrition plan and forgetting I am in a race.  Both of which means I'm now just a participant instead of a competitor.

Funny story...a couple of years ago I was preparing for the multi-day race, American Triple T .  I was drinking water and bottles with Nuun.  During that time I also had a blood draw for my annual physical.  When I finally saw the doctor he was a little concerned about the high levels of potassium, and other electrolytes, in my blood.  I told him about my pre-race hydration and everything was okay in his books.

I hope this didn't become too long of a read and you are able to get something out of it.  This is just my two cents and is simply from my experience.  Drink plenty of water before, during and after working out, but I would also recommend having a good strategy for replacing all of the nutrients and minerals that may be lost during exercise.

I welcome any additional comments or criticism.

Either way....Game On.  Just do it safely.
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