As athletes we have to always be concerned about what we put in our body, what is going to help make it operate at higher levels, and help us to achieve our goals.
Which leads to the discussion of what do you need in training to help keep your engine running?
When running, we can get away with just consuming water and an occasional gel (or other such products) throughout short efforts. The same can be true for short bike rides, or even short swims.
But once we get into the longer workouts (1 hour or longer) we will start to see performance drop. What will help to fuel your engine, and to also keep it oiled for the next day’s efforts?
An athlete first has to look at not only how much they sweat, but also how much they weigh, and at what effort are they performing the workouts.
Swimming: Generally any sports drink will work. Remember that you are constantly sweating in the pool, and you still need to stay on top of your hydration and electrolytes as well. Water does work, but make sure that once the workout is finished that you consume food that contains some protein, electrolytes, and of course carbohydrates.
Biking: For the most part, while you ride you need to consume about 2 calories per pound of body weight, per hour (remember we’re talking about rides lasting longer than an hour). What kind of fuel is best left up to the athlete – because what works for one person may make another athlete gag. Literally.
It is suggested that the athlete pay attention to hydration during warmer weather by setting a timer on your watch to remind you to drink regularly. Which means you will be consuming calories (your fuel) at regular intervals. Then you need to throw in the temperatures of the day. That will dictate whether you stick with a liquid format or some solids in the mix.
If you consume the appropriate amount of calories during the ride you will most likely recover that much faster so that your next ride or workout is not affected. If you don’t? Think of your muscles as a big sponge that has been dried out. See how stiff and brittle it is? Well, this is what happens to muscles when the appropriate nutrients/hydration is not delivered to them.
Running: Generally I recommend drinking (sipping) every 10-15′ during a run, and this is also dependent on temperature/humidity. The hotter it is the more often you will want to drink. And the source of fuel? Whatever your body will enjoy drinking to keep you drinking. General rule of thumb? To consume 1 calorie per pound of body weight every hour.
Electrolytes: An electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. “For example, muscle contraction is dependent upon the presence of calcium (Ca2+), sodium (Na+), and potassium (K+). Without sufficient levels of these key electrolytes, muscle weakness or severe muscle contractions may occur” (cramps).
Does this mean you need to be popping electrolytes left and right by the bottle-full? Nope. Again, everyone has a different sweat rate, and most hydration products on the market contain all we need for normal activities like that 2 hour run, or that 2 hour bike, or that 4000 meter swim. It’s when we run into extreme temperatures/humidity, and extended workouts/race where we do need to supplement our electrolytes.
Here is a good key though to see if you are electrolyte deficient: If the first thing you crave when you get off the bike or come home after a long run is a bag of chips….time to get your electrolytes back up to speed.
Let’s keep those cars running smoothly people!