While out riding my bike this morning I had to slow my pace as the road was partially closed for a local 5km/3 mile running race. It was great to see so many people participating but what concerned me the most was the amount of people barely moving, trussed up with the extra weight of a hydration belt usually worn by longer distance athletes. These belts sit on the hips or waist and have 3-6 flasks attached and are used to hold salt tablets, energy gels, bars and/or water. Basically a mini, portable, self-sufficient aid station..totally over the top for a 5km race. The thoughts that crossed my mind were:
a) did someone as in a coach actually tell them to use all this extra paraphernalia?
b) did they see this on tv, youtube, FB, a running magazine and so figured it was 'what you did' in a 5km race? or
c) were they practicing for a longer race and jumped in to test their equipment and supplements?
Riding further along the coast I came across another training group leaving a make shift aid station on the side of the road, this time not only with hydration belts but also hand held water bottles, some with one in each hand. This got me thinking that maybe there was an enterprising company selling all this product around the next corner (thankfully there was not) AND had their coaches read the latest book I was studying? Probably not, because if they had have all those belts and water bottles would have been tossed away and the aid station spaced further up the coast ..like 5km away!
Dr Tim Noakes, a South African physician thoroughly versed in all aspects of running and exercise physiology and the author of 'The Lore of Running' one of the great 'go to running books' of all time has penned a new book called 'Waterlogged'. The blurb on the back cover is interesting and has caused a few ripples in the endurance world in regards to race hydration strategies along with a re-think for some race directors and the frequency of aid stations and water availability. It reads;
"Drink as much as you can, even before you feel thirsty." That's been the mantra to athletes and coaches for the past three decades and sports drinks have flourished into a billion-dollar industry in the same short time. The problem is that an overhydrated athlete is at a performance disadvantage and at risk of exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) - a potentially fatal condition. Enough with oversold sports drinks and obsessing over water consumption before, during and after every workout, he says. Time for the facts -and the prevention of any more needless fatalities'.
Hmm?..strong words you say however, with the increase in 'big-city' marathons, more people have hit the roads running yet Dr Tim Noakes believes that too many of them are chugging back way too much water while exercising. Some of this is due to out of date guidelines such as the 1996 ACSM report which was based on laboratory findings NOT studies of outdoor exercise recommending that athletes should 'consume the maximal amount that could be tolerated'. This resulted over the years in athletes drinking too much water, with some collapsing at the finish line due to hyponatremia as well as the unfortunate death of some athletes before the guidelines were updated. In 2007 the ACSM then acknowledged that because there was considerable variability in sweating rates and sweat electrolyte content between individuals it was not possible to provide blanket guidelines and 'customized fluid replacement programs were recommended'. Basically..figure it out yourself people or read Dr Noakes's book 'Waterlogged'. It is a great resource and I recommend anyone who is working with athletes particularly endurance athletes to add it to their library. So, just how much water should you be drinking while exercising? Here are some gems from the book;
1. Your body will tell you what it needs, if you just listen.
2. So drink only 'ad libitum' - that is, according to the dictates of thirst. Thirsty? Drink. Not thirsty? don't drink. If racing do not ingest more than 800ml/hr. EAH becomes increasingly more likely in slower athletes who ingest more than 1L/hr.
3. Water ingested alone does not optimize performance especially in races/exercise over 2 hours.
4. The body needs carbohydrates (CHO) in the water solution.
5. It is not the CHO type or the concentration that determines how much CHO is delivered to the athletes muscles during exercise but rather the athletes drinking behavior.
6. The extent that the athlete is prepared to run/move with a partially filled stomach, 'liquid sloshing around' will determine how much ingested CHO muscles will receive during exercise.
7. Ingesting 60 grams of CHO per hour optimizes increased performance in events lasting more than 2 hours.To achieve an intake of 60 grams of CHO, drink 600ml (20.3 fl oz) of a 10% CHO solution OR use CHO gels (60 grams total) plus water.
8. Don't believe the hype from companies whose principal focus is their commercial fitness and not necessarily your health or safety. (Janet speak..stay away from Monster energy drink, it really isn't that good for you!).
So, peeps...next time you are out and about exercising, yes by all means drink your water but only if you are thirsty and don't be lugging hydration belts around unless you are running ultra long or even longer!