Nutrition: The Neglected Aspect of Sports (Part 2)
For every athlete, hydration is a big concern. More often than not, dehydration is a concern especially for a tropical country like the Philippines. Thus, most athletes make sure they drink a lot to stay hydrated. If you want to know if you are dehydrated after training, here’s a simple way to check: Weigh yourself before commencing training and take note of the number. After training, weight yourself again. If you see a difference of about 1kg, then chances are you just lost a substantial amount of liquids and was not able to rehydrate properly during training and you are approximately 1 liter dehydrated.
However, there is also the issue of overhydrating. When you overhydrate, chances are you will feel a sloshy, heavy feeling in your stomach and you won’t race well. With that said, the standard intake should be 750ml to 1 liter per hour (140-170 lbs man) and 500 to 750 ml for a woman between 120-140 lbs for a typical hot and humid day in the Philippines. If it become extra hot and dry, adjust accordingly. If the day is cooler, then adjust as well.
Now that you have hydration covered, let’s take a look at ways to fuel your training, or race, properly.
Fuel right, finish strong
If you have ever felt like you had the rug pulled from under you at the 90-minute mark of a race, then chances are you weren’t fueling right. This happens because most athletes decide to skip carbs. The biggest mistake most athletes make is to skip taking carbohydrates thinking that, without carbs, they can burn fat during training or they believe that they don’t need it. This is absolutely false. To tap your fat store, your body needs carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are also processed by your body into glycogen stores for energy during training or racing.
Sources of fuel can be liquids and gels. Why not solids, you might ask. Studies have shown that liquids and gels assimilate faster into the body as readily available fuel sources. If you have to chew your fuel source, you won’t be able to use it as energy immediately. Plus, fuel that needs to be chewed takes longer to digest. Digesting these solid fuel sources also require energy- Energy that you could just use for training or racing.
The rule of thumb for fuel sources is 200-250 calories per hour for a man between 140-170 lbs and 180 to 200 calories for a woman between 120-140 lbs.
Electrolytes: a balancing act
A third sports nutrition element to consider is electrolyte balance. Electrolyte balance involves making sure your body gets a full spectrum of electrolyte simply because you don’t sweat out just water. The typical composition of human sweat is sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium. There are also traces of minerals that compose of zinc, copper, iron, chromium, nickel and lead.
In order to keep your body’s electrolyte balance, you need to make sure whatever you are taking has more than just sodium and water. Believe it or not, you can actually have an electrolyte imbalance with common sports drinks because they don’t contain a complete spectrum of electrolytes. By taking incomplete sources of electrolytes, you are just delaying the inevitable and, take note, a delayed cramp caused by electrolyte imbalance is actually more severe.
Not every person sweats the same way. If you sweat more, you’re most likely to lose more electrolytes. You would also have to consider weather conditions when taking electrolytes. Is it a hot race or a cold race?
With all aspect and elements of sports nutrition, it is important to know that you have to practice taking your supplements during “training in varied weather conditions, with most training sessions done in close to similar weather conditions as your actual race. Although, you never know what the weather conditions will be like in your actual race, so be prepared to adjust.
Lastly, most athletes ask if they should be eating close to the start of a workout or race. Should I eat 2-3 hours before or should my last bite be an hour before training/racing? The answer is, it all depends. Remember, Sports nutrition is a science, but the application to each individual is an art form.