This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Truxes (rhymes with “success”). Check out her blog at www.nicole-stateofmind.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoletruxes.
It’s heating up here in the desert, as I’m sure it is for much of the country. Summer time BBQs filled with burgers, watermelons, and margaritas are just around the corner! Everyone loves summer, with more hours of sunlight, less clothing, great tan lines – especially us triathletes 😉 – and (for most) no school! Even with all we have to look forward to in the summer, all the sweating during those hard miles does take a toll on your body, one that you may not be used to coming out of your winter training.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important parts of our training, and it’s one of the easiest ones to forget. First thing in the morning, aside from the hunger I’m sure many of you experience, you should be thinking about a glass of water. You don’t have to overdo it, especially if you have a workout shortly after you rise (gotta beat the heat!), one 4-8 oz glass is fine depending on what you can handle and the duration of your workout.
If you think about it, the adult body is made up of about 60% water; wouldn’t it make sense to make it a key ingredient in our daily nutrition regimen? Many of the metabolic processes necessary for training and recovery require the proper amount of water to happen, so why wouldn’t you supply your body with this integral piece of training equipment?
Another important thing to consider is the amount of electrolytes you’re getting. This word is thrown around a lot, but do you know what all of the electrolytes are and how to figure out if you’re low on any of them?
- Sodium- the most common, most demonized, but very necessary electrolyte. Sodium gets a bad rap because of all the high blood pressure and heart disease we have in this country; however, as an endurance athlete you need to be very aware of how much sodium you get because you may not be getting enough! If you often get confused, or dazed when doing a hard workout (particularly one where you sweat a lot), you’re covered in white, and your skin tastes like salt—you might be in need of some sodium, pronto! This confusion you’re experiencing is one of the first signs of hyponatremia, which can be very serious if you do not take care of it. When your sodium levels drop in your blood and you do nothing to bring them back up it can cause you to go from confusion to vomiting to more serious things such as cardiac arrest, pulmonary edema, or even death. This has happened in many of the major marathon events and can even be caused by having too much plain water and not enough electrolyte supplementation.
- Potassium- just eat some bananas, right?! For the most part, yes. Potassium is much different than sodium in that when your blood levels first drop, it is difficult to tell that they are low. It is not until real problems begin and your muscles are already cramping that you know you are very low in potassium. This can also cause GI distress (mainly constipation) along with the muscle cramps, so be sure to eat your ‘nanners.
- Calcium- Stress fracture fighter no. 1! It may come as a surprise that some of the most avid runners have some of the lowest calcium and therefore weakest bones. But running is weight bearing? Yes, running is a weight bearing exercise, but sometimes runners (particularly female) have such low hormone levels that it causes their calcium to go down and therefore their bones become weak and brittle, allowing for stress fractures to happen much more easily. Calcium can be taken in a supplement daily to help raise these levels and prevent against stress fractures; however, vitamin D is very important to take along with it to help boost absorption into your blood!
- Magnesium- Seldom talked about, but very important! Magnesium is a mineral we don’t generally hear a ton about. However, it is very important to carbohydrate metabolism and muscle strength (two very important things for an endurance athlete). Magnesium deficiency can decrease endurance by fatiguing muscles and decreasing the efficiency of carbohydrate metabolism. The symptoms of low magnesium are difficult to distinguish from those of potassium or sodium, so it is important to supplement magnesium along with the other electrolytes!
- Phosphate- Generally phosphate is not a problem for athletes. It is very common in our diet and usually not lost in mass quantities when exercising. The only time this electrolyte is a problem is when an athlete has an eating disorder or other severe disease of some kind, in which case they should seek medical attention anyway.
So that is a quick and dirty breakdown of the electrolytes. Many triathletes supplement with electrolytes caps. A great source of hydration and energy that I like is Fluid Performance. Check yourself every once in a while, monitor your electrolyte intake and determine if you have any of the beginning stages of any of these electrolyte deficiencies. Not only will this increase your performance, but it could save your life!
Stay hydrated everyone!!