Performance Hydration: Beyond Water
By Dr. Craig Nixon
There has been a significant amount research that indicates hydrating with water is sufficient for race or training sessions lasting less than sixty minutes. Once we go over that time, there is a demand for electrolytes and carbohydrates. The primary electrolyte of concern is sodium although we can’t forget about magnesium, calcium, potassium, and chloride.
Electrolytes have many functions which include regulating heart rate to allowing your muscles to contract. Carbohydrates provide your body with energy. Most carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which provides the primary fuel utilized by the brain and working muscles.
How much fluid volume, carbohydrate percentage, and sodium does an endurance athlete need?
It can’t be emphasized enough that customizing your fluid intake should be based on sweat rate. It can be just as critical to your health if you under-hydrate or over-hydrate. While we already know that a mildly under-hydrated athlete will not have optimal performance, over-hydration can result in a problem called hyponatremia. Sodium, an electrolyte lost in sweat, helps keep the right balance of water outside and inside your cells and in your blood.
Excessive water intake can dilute the sodium resulting in an imbalance of the cellular water gradient. Cellular death is the take home message. The symptoms progressively appear and the athlete feels weak, nauseous, incoherent, and then may experience seizures, coma, and death. Although the general recommendation is six ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes, think about customizing your needs.
When it comes to carbohydrate replacement, an athlete should be hydrating with a fluid that contains between 6-8% carbohydrates per 8 ounces. If this percentage is higher, the stomach is not able to absorb the sugar fast enough which can lead to stomach cramping. Since nutrition labels list the components in grams, you can easily calculate the carbohydrate percentage by dividing that number by 237 which is the amount of milliliters in eight ounces. With the many options of gels, bars, etc. to add carbohydrates, you should try to ingest between 30 and 60 mg per hour.
Sodium is the main electrolyte lost in sweat. Depending on the sweat volume, approximately 500-1000 mg of sodium should be consumed in each hour of training or racing. If you have a white film on your clothes after exercise, you would be considered a “heavy sweater” and should consume the higher range of sodium.
With the jammed energy drink market, it’s tough to decide which alien-based colors are worthy of diving into. The product we have been most impressed with at PK’s Bike Shop is Nuun—pronounced “noon”. The product has been on the market for thirteen years. It comes in tablet form and can be conveniently added to your water bottle. It’s considered a clean product with no artificial ingredients and each tablet is around 10 calories. Of course, most importantly, there are plenty of flavor options.
The company offers several products: “Nuun Electrolytes” is marketed as a sweat replenisher, “Nuun Vitamins” is recommended as an anytime daily drink for wellness and hydration, and the third product, “Nuun Performance” hydrates with a balance of electrolytes and carbohydrates. This last option is geared to the endurance athlete. We would highly recommend giving them a try on your next swim, bike, or run.
Remember to hydrate for performance!
….Pk’s Bike Shop