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Posts Tagged ‘hydration’

Is Gatorade good for Trail Running Hydration?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

gatorade-hydrationHydration and energy are essential for successful Trails Runs, but is yours being sabotaged by sports drinks?

Sports drinks were originally developed by scientists at the University of Florida in 1965 to help the school’s football players perform better during their 3-hour long games in 100-degree heat. Sound like your Trail Runs? Didn’t think so. Most of us have trail runs that last from 1 to 1 ½ hours at a moderate pace. The American Dietetic Association explains that unless you are an elite athlete or engaged in vigorous activity for more than 1 hour, plain water works perfectly for hydration.

There are two main components of sports drinks that aid in performance and hydration: carbohydrates and sodium. The carbohydrates come in the form of sugar to sweeten the drink and to add calories for energy. The sodium works to replace the sodium lost in sweat. However, neither of the components are necessary in drinks used for thirst and hydration for moderate runs that last less than 1 hour. In fact, drinking sports drinks when they are not necessary can add extra calories to your diet. The usual size 20-ounce bottle of a sports drink has an average of 140 calories, which means that you will have to run an extra 15 minutes just to burn it off!

Instead of drinking regular sports drinks, here are some healthy options:

- Flavor regular water with lemon, lime or orange slices

- Use lower calorie versions of sports drinks such as Gatorade G2 (71 calories per 20-ounce bottle), Propel Fitness Water (25 calories per 20-ounce bottle) or Powerade Zero (0 calories per 20-ounce bottle)

- Dilute your favorite sports drink with regular water

I know what you are thinking. “But I always drink Gatorade during races. It makes me feel better.” And you are right! There are instances when you do need to replace needed calories and energy during or after trail runs. I know that when I am training for half marathons, I tend to get leg cramps at night. What does that say to me? I am losing too much potassium through my sweat and need to replace it better. Ways to do that are through potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, or sports drinks! Consequently, I usually end my long runs with a large glass of Propel, berry flavor to be exact. The 45 minutes directly after your run is the best time to replenish the body’s losses.

Essentially, think of your body as a night club. As the night goes on, more and more cabs line up to take people home. Just like as your muscles work, they need to be replaced by what they lose, so transporters in your body line up to bring those lost elements from your bloodstream to your muscles and tissues. After the night club closes, people linger for awhile, so the cabs stick around for another 45 minutes or so to assure that everybody is brought home safely. Similarly, in your body, those transporters stick around for about 45 minutes to bring every needed mineral and nutrient available to replenish the muscles and tissues, which help to prevent soreness and cramping.

Moral of the story: Sports drinks work magnificently to replace your body’s losses if you are trail running for longer than 1 1/2 hours, hit that wall during a trail race when you feel your energy bottoms out, or are in need of extra calories and electrolytes. Otherwise, water is your best bet. It will quench your thirst without adding excess calories that you just worked so hard to burn off.

Happy Trail Running and Hydration!

-Lanier Thompson, M.S.

Tips for Running a Marathon

Thursday, March 26th, 2009


One of my friends from the Army was telling me that he is running a marathon this weekend and his goal is to run it in under 5 hours.  Sometimes I forget that there is a whole group of runners out there who’s only goal is to finish the race.  That’s not a bad goal to have, a marathon is a difficult endeavor and not everyone can do it.  Here are some tips for running a successful marathon.  Just remember, it’s not how fast you run, it’s how you finish the race.  A smile and still standing is optimal.

Hydration is probably the most important factor to running a successful marathon (assuming you’ve trained and have the right mental frame of mind going into it).  It is important to start hydrating for a race about a week prior to the event.  Try to alternate between Gatorade and water in order to get the right amount of electrolytes.  It is possible to over-hydrate so don’t put down more water than your body needs.  Only drink water and Gatorade the week before the race and don’t drink anything that will dehydrate.  You can concentrate on dehydrating when are ready to celebrate your accomplishment.

In addition to increasing your hydration intake, you need to load up on carbs.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  You also need to try to get some protein in there.  I typically pay attention to this about 36 hours prior to the race.  I feel like any earlier than that and you use the energy doing other things and the nutrients pass through your body by race day.  But then again I eat spaghetti every night anyways so its tough to tell.  Some nights if I’m in a hurry I eat a can of Spaghetti O’s instead.  I love’em.

Make sure you get in the right frame of mind as you’re toeing the line.  You want to be mentally prepared for your race so think about all the training you have done.  Think about how you are ready to run it.  Imagine how it will feel crossing the finish line and seeing your family or friends.  Think about having to tell them “I didn’t reach my goal” or “I had to walk.”  You’ve got to tap into both positive and negative reinforcement to achieve your goals.  I once dated someone who always told me I was awesome and it got to the point where I thought it was counter-productive.  If I’m already awesome, then why do I have to work hard to become awesomener?  I’m fine with awesome.

You need to have a good race day breakfast.  It needs to be something that has carbohydrates but nothing too extreme that may upset your stomach.  I typically have a couple of plain bagels.  Try out a couple of different breakfast items before your long runs during training and see what feels best for you.  No matter what the type of food it is, you need to have some energy in your body for the start of the race.

Try not to run out too fast.  I wasn’t sure if I should mention this though.  Many races I have gone out a little faster than I had planned but it worked out for the best.  Yes, my first couple of miles may be faster than mile 20 and 21 but it sets a good tone for the race.  It’s puts you in position to have a great time or you can ease off a bit and run what you imagined you would.  However, just don’t get too excited and over extend yourself to the point that you are tired and negative for the remainder of the race.  I did this in the first marathon I ran, first half in 1:30, the second half 2:15.  I didn’t enjoy the second half as much even though it was in the Hollywood area instead of Inglewood.  I lived in Inglewood.

Develop some mantras to keep you occupied and motivate you.  You have to determine what works best for you, but mine is usually, “The faster you run the quicker you’ll be done.”  Please don’t use my mantra though.  It’s mine.  Mantras value is inversely proportion to the amount of people who use it.  If you need one try, “Serenity Now.”  I’m sure no one has ever said that before!

Overall have the right mental state of mind going into the race.  Doing all of this things will give you the confidence you need to know that you are ready and able to achieve your goals.  You can do it.

Trail Running Hydration Products

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

There is a lot of trail running gear for you to chose from, but the first thing you need to consider when trail running for long distances is how you are going to carry your water.  When running in the city or around your community water is not as much of an issue because of its availability.  I know someone who has a map of the whole city with water locations.  I myself bring five dollars or so in case I get really thirsty and have to stop at a store.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I won’t let myself do it.  When you are on the trail there aren’t water fountains or stores, it’s just you and nature.  And guess what? Mother Nature isn’t going to take care of you anymore.  It’s time you grow up, got a job, and started carrying your own water…and take out the trash on your way out.

You have four responsible options:  carry water bottles, bottle waist pack, fuel belt, or a hydration pack.  I don’t like to have anything in my hands while I’m running so I don’t like running with water bottles.  I’ve got to have my hands free to waive when I pass you of course.  As for the bottle waist pack and fuel belt, I have honestly never tried using one of these.  Although they look very practical, I associate them with fanny packs and have not ventured to try them yet.  I know, I need put on my jean shorts, or jhorts, and get over it.  Either that, or I’ll continue to use a hydration pack.  I like how the weight is towards the top of your back and the shoulders.  Also, the waist and shoulder straps really keep the hydration pack tight to your body.  However, make sure you don’t get it too tight where it can rub against your skin.  Watch out for your neck, hydration packs like to give hickeys.  The other issue is that the drinking tube is tough to keep in place.  Even though there is a holder on most hydration packs it does not seem to stay in it very well when you starting moving your body down the trail.  Overall th0ugh, the best way to carry water is with a hydration pack.  You can carry more water and the position will affect your running less than any other water carrier.  Sweet!

What You Should Eat Before Running a Race?

Monday, March 16th, 2009

oatmealIt’s race day and you’ve done all of your training, you’ve got your running shoes, the only thing left to do is wake-up, eat some breakfast, and push yourself to attain awesomeness status.  So what kind of food should eat the morning before the race to allow you to become awesome without making you feel like you have to throw up?  I personally have a difficult time determining how much food is enough to eat the morning before races.  I always push myself to the “I feel like I have to throw up” level so I usually don’t want anything in my stomach on race day; however, I need energy, especially for longer races.  Sometimes the less I have in my stomach the easier it is for me to feel like I have to throw up.  I’ve seen runners eat a full breakfast before a race and I’ve also seen runners forcing themselves to throw up at the starting line of a race.  Don’t make yourself throw up.  Even if you are trail running.  You’re already skinny.  You must be, you’re a runner.  So here are some universal tips that every type of runner should consider when eating breakfast the morning of race day:

Your objective on race day is to top-up on your liver glycogen stores, maintain blood sugar levels, and hydrate properly.  Too easy.  In order to do this you should eat foods that give you carbohydrates with a small amount of protein.  Some suggested combinations are raisins with honey, cereal with a banana and low-fat milk, two slices of toast with some orange juice, or a bagel with peanut butter.  As a side note, growing up in the South, the first time I ever saw someone eat a bagel was my Sophomore year of High School before a cross-country meet.  The first time I ever ate a bagel myself was my Senior year of High School when I was working at a grocery store stocking cream cheese and decided to buy some bagels.  They were pretty good but I thought my father was going to kick me out of the house when he saw me walk through the door with a bag of bagels.  He usually eats fried peach pies for breakfast.  My mom bought him fried blueberry pies because they were “healthier.”  I’m serious.

If you have a weak stomach on race day then you should at the very least drink a sports drink or a sports meal replacement to get the nutrients you need.  You know your body needs some energy during the race.  If you have had a problem with having food in your stomach during a race then try eating 2-3 hours prior to the race to give your body time to digest the food.  Also try eating easy to digest foods like oatmeal to allow your body to receive some energy but remove the excess waste before you start running.  If you a running a race under 60 minutes then you don’t need to worry about eating at all, just make sure you drink water and stay hydrated.  If you still have a problem with food in your stomach during races then start finishing your races under 60 minutes no matter what the distance is.  Problem solved.

Race day can be a nervous morning.  Blame your shivering on the cold weather and toe the line with the confidence that you have the proper amounts of nutrients in your body without feeling like you have to throw up.  Only 5% of runners who feel like they are going to throw up actually do.  So push yourself and be in the top 5%!  Measured on the belly curve of course.

Salt is the Hydration Key for Trail Running

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

salt-resizeAs it gets warmer outside it is time to start focusing on your hydration levels.  I’m really into hydration.  The most important thing that you need to remember is that hydration isn’t just drinking plenty of water, it’s your body being able to retain those fluids, this is where salt comes in.  Get yourself  some high quality NaCl.

I didn’t always realize that salt was needed for hydration, I always assumed the opposite, that it dehydrates you.  I quickly learned I was wrong while attending the US Army Ranger School.  At Ranger School we were given salt packets to put into one of our canteens, the other canteen was to remain normal water.  Even though we were in the hot South GA sun in the middle of summer, physically exerting ourselves for 18 hours a day, and eating so quickly that we only got small amounts of salt from our food, I thought I was smarter than the Army.  I deduced that salt wasn’t good for me, it would dehydrate me.  So I didn’t add the sea salt to my canteen.  I went down hard for dehydration.  At one point I became disoriented and was slurring my speech.  For this I got about an hour of rest along with your temperature checked about 10 times rectally.  Pretty fun but I don’t recommend trying it.  So after that I began pounding the sea salt.  This technique worked!  From despair comes great innovation.  Thanks US Army!

When you sweat (and urinate), you loose sodium which you need replenish in order to intake more fluids to hydrate.  The more you sweat, the more sodium you loose.  It’s just math.  Mathematically, during long runs you sweat about 2.25-3.4 grams of salt per liter and about 1 liter per hour.  Every body is different so you need to closely monitor your personal hydration levels.  Some early signs of dehydration are nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, and inappropriate behavior.  Try to blame your inappropriate behavior on your low sodium levels next time.  In order to avoid this happening you need to focus on the amount of salt you are taking in, especially before a long trail run.  You should take about one gram of sodium per hour when on running long races.  I like to get my salt intake from pretzels during a long trail run.  Also start acclimating yourself to the heat during your training to help your body know better how to react to the loss of salt.  The week before a trail race try to intake 10-25 grams of sodium per day.  This will give you a good base going into your trail race.  Lastly, you should avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatories which decrease your sodium levels.  Medicine’s for suckers anyways, headaches are cool.

So stop wasting your salt by throwing it all over your friend’s “game.”  Save it for the trail race playa hata.

Drink Up! Water’s on Me!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

side-waterOn my long run this weekend I ran up behind another runner, in a less than desirable part of town, which made it obvious that we were both on a very long run.  As I approached the other runner I could see her waist band full of water bottles and thought to myself, “How far she is going?!”  I was personally on a 14 mile run in which the only stop I had planned to make was to release some hydration not to add to it.  However, I do have a running friend that has constructed a map of every water fountain, hose, cooler, and runner friendly establishment in town and plans his runs accordingly.  Now that’s serious.  Maybe I’ll get him to post the map.   I bet mapmyfun doesn’t have this capability.  I wouldn’t know though, I never go to that lame website.

The other runner and I began talking.  She was going about 14 miles as well and asked me the question, “You don’t have any water?!”  She was amazed that I didn’t have any for a 14 mile run which lead me to thinking, how come I didn’t have any water?  I did know of two water fountains along my route but I didn’t stop at them.  What makes me different?  What are techniques that may allow me to go a little farther without water?  It is surely not due to my genetic make-up.  Just ask anyone who has had to post up on me in a game of basketball or sit in a chair I have recently sat in after a long run, I’m a sweater.  To put it in perspective, it takes me about a 4 mile run in 70 degree weather to make my whole outfit drip with sweat.  Some say it’s heredity, I say it’s body efficiency.  Don’t be jealous that my body knows how to cool itself off better than yours.  My body is a machine, not to mention, my future is so warm, I gotta stay cool…that was lame.  Probably the opposite of cool.

At any rate, not being properly hydrated can lead to fatigue, decreased coordination, and muscle cramping, not to mention more serious implications that can lead to hospitalization and even death.  Hydration is something everyone who is active needs to monitor.  When running long distances over 8 miles it is best to start hydrating a few days prior.  I have found this is the best way to make sure you are ready for your run.  I constantly make sure I am well hydrated.  When I think of my hydration for the day I don’t consider any liquid intake other than sports drink or water.  I have found the best thing to pre-hydrate is to make weak sports drink.  You can buy the powder based sports drink (this is cheaper too) and mix it at half the recommended amount or even less.  This beverage tastes the same, well weaker, and while you are not exercising it allows you to intake more fluids without giving you unnecessary extra calories or electrolytes that you don’t need during the day.  My pre-hydration is why I require less liquids while running.  Don’t hesitate, pre-hydrate.

Consuming large amounts of fluid directly prior to your run is not a good way to hydrate.  You should only drink about 16-24 ounces of fluid before every run.  During your run it is a good rule of thumb to try to drink 6-8 fluid ounces per 20 minutes; however, every runner is different and only you know your body.  I don’t bring water with me on a run unless I am going to run more than 14 miles in a moderate weather day.  However, that’s just my preference, but I don’t even like bringing a house key with me or a even a shirt, they’re just so constricting.  Bring whatever amount of water you feel comfortable with.  Also remember to not let the weather fool you on how much water you bring on your run.  Too often runners think because it is cooler out that they will not sweat as much and therefore do not need to hydrate as much.  This is a misconception which can lead to serious dehydration.  A good rule of thumb is for every pound of weight you lose from sweat (weigh yourself before your workout, then after) amounts to 1 pint of water.  So figure out about how much water you usually lose when exercising and hydrate accordingly.  After your run you should drink from 20-24 ounces, or more simply, until you aren’t thirsty anymore.  Try not to “gulp” down any water but drink it slowly to give your body time to disperse the liquid efficiently.  Just like oil makes an engine run efficiently, water makes a body purr.

Your race hydration amounts are more intense than your normal run but it is good to practice your race day hydration.  Just like your practicing your race pace, practice your drinking rhythm for race day.  Where do you plan to stop for water?  It is good to view a map of your race’s water points so you don’t get caught needing water when it is not available.  Also, when you do get your water I have found it is more beneficial to slow down or walk when you drink it.  It doesn’t take that much time and your body with thank you for not giving it a shockingly huge gulp of water as it is banging itself up and down on the pavement.  Slowing down also gives you a chance to make sure you are drinking the correct liquid that you chose to.  I ran a marathon that had red bull girls handing out red bull at the water stations.  The problem was that Red Bull’s hired help was a lot more attractive than the race volunteer staff.  It took about 4 cups of red bull for me to realize that none of the good looking girls had water or sports drink.  Did that mean I stopped getting red bull?  No, I just stopped drinking it.  Drink up!