Pip Taylor: Matching Nutrition and Hydration timing to course conditions
July 29, 2011 12:10 am |
Professional Triathlete Pip Taylor’s series on competition nutrition for 5150 racing. Pip is the contributing editor for Triathlete Magazine’s FUEL section and you can read more about her on her at www.piptaylor.com
Matching Nutrition and Hydration timing to course conditions:
By Pip Taylor
Racing/training in the heat:
So you’ve qualified for the HyVee 5150 US Championships? Chances are that Des Moines Iowa in early September could still herald some hot and humid racing conditions. It is also likely, given the heat wave which seems to have settled in across a large swathe of the country, that your training and preparation will also be done under hot conditions. While this does provide some good news in the form of heat acclimation, there are some special considerations and planning to consider when either training or racing in the heat.
Particular attention needs to be paid to fluid losses and replacement needs. Sweat rates are likely to be high and dehydration can lead to not only a drop in performance but also other dangerous medical conditions. Maintaining hydration is important not only in racing for optimal performance but also in training – for getting the most out of workouts but also in aiding recovery. Recovery is often harder and more delayed in the heat and being hydrated is something that can definitely help. Go into every workout adequately hydrated and top up as needed.
In very hot races you may need to be taking in additional fluids to what you had planned. Be careful though not to also overload on the carbohydrates/sugars by taking in a lot of sports drinks on top of your gels and regular caloric intake – this could cause too high a concentration in your stomach and lead to stomach upset and delayed gastric emptying. Just because fluid needs have increased does not mean that caloric needs have necessarily also increased.
If possible chill your drinks for races to make them more palatable. Consider freezing water bottles for the race – just be sure that they are definitely going to melt in time and that you account for volume expansion. For hot weather training invest in an insulated bottle of small insulated bag to keep fluids cool for during and post workout hydration along with a hydration belt for run training.
Make use of your home scales to keep track of how much fluid you are losing during workouts. Aim to replace all of these losses and then some after training. You don’t need to try and match all your loss during the workout itself – it will be somewhere around 60-70% of fluid weight lost. Listen to your thirst but also try and anticipate this by drinking regularly and staving of the feeling of extreme thirst or dry mouth – drink before you get to that stage! Another tool that can be useful is setting your watch to give you reminders to keep drinking.
Sodium and other electrolytes are also going to be depleted more quickly. While sodium might be the key electrolyte to pay attention to during races, it is vital that all electrolytes (including magnesium, calcium, potassium) are replaced especially throughout strenuous training in the heat where losses can be magnified as they accumulate over days and weeks of hot weather training. All of these minerals can be obtained through a healthy and varied diet but in special circumstances may be need to supplemented (consult your doctor or sports nutritionist if you think you need help). You can also take advantage of the electrolyte replacement products that are designed for athletes to be added to either water or sports drink. In general sports drinks provide small amounts of electrolytes but may not be enough on their own to replace sweat losses.
Racing in cool/cold conditions:
Sweat rates are likely to be lower in the cooler weather, and research shows that in cold environments slightly higher rates of dehydration may be tolerated with no drop in performance. However hydration is still important for maximal performance and mental cognition. Fluid losses should be monitored during training in order to assist in knowing how much to hydrate pre-event as well as post event. You also need to be aware that although fluid needs may be reduced in the colder weather, you do still need to be fueled which means being conscious of taking in adequate calories. This may mean drinking a more concentrated sports drink prior/during the race or supplementing with gels/bars to obtain more carbohydrate. One strategy to consider especially in the cold is to warm drinks so that they are more appealing which might encourage drinking.
Racing at altitude:
Some races are held at a moderate altitude (such as Boulder 5150 and Bela Bela 5150 in South Africa). This must also be factored into any nutritional plans as even mild altitude can have an effect on performance and physiology especially if you are not accustomed to that altitude – that is if you are coming up from sea level to race and have not had at least 3-6 weeks acclimation. Hydration and carbohydrate ingestion may need to be adjusted to account for the increased fluid losses and glycogen consumption associated with higher elevation. If you plan on spending an extended period up high your diet should also be abundant in iron-rich foods as well as anti-oxidant containing fruits and vegetables. In fact it is a good idea to pay attention to your diet and overall health well before you hit the mountains – you will cope much better with the stress of altitude if your body is already healthy and without any nutritional deficiencies.
Racing on a tough/technical course:
Several of the 5150 races include quite technical bike courses. Whether that includes climbs (such as Boulder) or plenty of turns, cornering, braking and accelerations as well as making sure that you are maintaining your draft zone and avoiding other competitors safely. All of these factors should also be considered when planning out your nutrition strategy for race day. Especially as the bike provides the greatest opportunity for you to get in the calories and the fluids that you need. Study course maps – be aware of where the aid stations are – where you can ‘throw’ you water bottle and pick up another if necessary; where you are unlikely to be able to think about eating/drinking (any descents, steep climbs or other technical sections where you do not want to be taking your hands off your handlebars). These simple facts of the course may mean that you need to adjust the timing of when you eat and drink.. Simply being pre-armed with this knowledge can take some of the stress out of the race itself and ensure that none of your important calories or fluids are forgone.