Recently we started a 3 part series on nutrition, hydration and carrying it all for beginner runners. Hopefully I can share some of my ill-begotten “knowledge” with the community and help someone out…and avoid embarrassing myself at the same time. Here goes:
Part 2 – Hydration
Hydration and nutrition are tightly linked and and, as with nutrition, you will need to find out if your body can process sports drink (sugars) while under duress or if you’ll have to stick to water only.
For my first 2 marathons I suffered from “Racer Belly”, not during the race mind you but certainly afterward. For a long time I attributed it to processing sports drink while racing but eventually discovered that my body was reacting to the adrenalin in my system (think extreme butterflies in your stomach). Since then, not only can I drink Gatorade/Poweraid, but the additional calories actually helps/prevents me from bonking.
Another thing to consider is that digestion requires water. Your stomach can pull water from your body when it needs to process any nutrition you are ingesting, this can lead to cramping and a truly painful race. I alternate my intake of sports drink and water and time my nutrition ingestion to coincide with water stations; take a cup, move off to the side, eat/drink, and then get back to work.
If your body can’t handle sports drinks and you have to stick to water, you need to be mindful of your electrolyte levels. By drinking too much water exclusively you risk developing Hyponatremia which is essentially “watered down” blood sodium levels. Electrolytes (including sodium) aid the body in transferring water/waste across cell membranes; if you levels are out of whack you can get yourself in trouble. One thing to look into is whether you are a potassium or sodium sweater, this way you can look into specific drinks/gels that cater to replacing those elements in higher ratios. That being said there are discussions out now showing that the body should possess enough sodium that supplemental sodium intake shouldn’t be needed, the caveat being that you drink to thirst and not simply because “you should”.
Next you need to think about how to get that hydration into you. Marathons are usually well stocked and have hydration stations every 5km (3mi) or so. If you can use the race’s liquid, then you don’t have to carry it. The risk with this being; if you want fluid while between stations, you’ll have to simply wait. Also, since drinking while running is a messy endeavour, I choose to use the stations as an impromptu walking break, even if it’s only for a few steps get to drink into you then get moving again. Your body will appreciate the minute break and you will appreciate not having sticky hands for the next 3 hours.
In conclusion, hydration (or lack of) has ruined many runner’s race, don’t let it happen to you. Experiment with all the options BEFORE race day, and you’ll give yourself the best shot at success.
Come back soon for Part 3 – How do I carry all this crap?