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Dehydration

Dehydration.  This is not the same as heat exhaustion.  They can be related, but you can have one without the other.  You will stop sweating and run out of energy if you are dehydrated.  We call it wilting, because it’s the same as a plant wilting when it doesn’t have enough water.

Hydrating During the Carbo-loading Process:  You have to drink more than usual in the last few days because carbohydrates require water before they can be stored in your muscles as glycogen.

You Can’t Load Up on Water.  Drink just enough during the last several days that your urine is occasionally clear and copious.  If your muscles cramp when you point your toes, you are probably not drinking enough.  If you are peeing a lot once or twice an hour, however, you are over-hydrating, which can deplete your system of electrolytes.

Race Morning:  Drink a little water during the night, especially if it’s hot and humid.  Take a water bottle with you to the start of the race and sip a little, just to make sure you are fully hydrated.  Avoid sugared drinks just before a race because your blood sugar level will already be high enough and more sugar can cause an adverse reaction.

During the Race:  You should plan to take a small, hand-held bottle with you (it can be empty at the start).  You won’t feel like drinking at first but once you start to sweat, your thirst will increase and you’ll need to drink almost constantly to keep up with water loss.

Wilting.  If you lose three or four 12 oz. bottles worth of sweat (easy to do on a hot day in a long race) you’ll become dehydrated.

Sipping.  In general, you should sip more or less constantly early in the race and gulp as your thirst dictates later in the race.  Sip some liquid and wait until you feel it is out of your stomach before sipping again.

How Much to Drink.  Don’t drink because you think you have to.  You can easily get nauseated, especially if the water is too sweet.  Remember, your body is a system.  If the liquid is too sweet (or not salty enough), your system will reject it with nausea.  Better to upchuck and start over than be nauseated.

Aid Stations:  If you don’t carry a water bottle, stop at the aid stations and drink your fill as your thirst dictates.  Otherwise, fill your bottle at the aid stations and carry it with you in your hand.  Pour water over your head when it gets real hot.

Heat Exhaustion/Stroke. 

Heat Exhaustion/Stroke.  Hawaii’s normal heat and humidity can cause heat exhaustion.  Your heart rate rises, you stop sweating, you feel nauseated, chilled and disoriented, your muscles cramp up and you run out of energy.  Heat Exhaustion is a very serious problem.

Clothing.  You should wear light weight, light colored clothing, with “breathable” material that keeps you cool during the race.  Don’t use cotton shirts or socks.

Acclimatizing to the Heat:  It takes a week to acclimatize to running in the heat, and only a few days to make the most gains.  Try running slowly for twenty minutes at noon once or twice this week.  Wear a sweat shirt during the evening workouts.

Treating Heat Exhaustion.  If you see someone with heat-related symptoms, get them to lie down in the shade, cool their body off with ice towels and water, and get them medical attention immediately.

Aid Stations:  Don’t drink from the sponges.  Use them to keep yourself wet and cool, but don’t soak your shoes in the process.

Pacing:  The faster you run, the more internal heat your body will generate.  It’s better to go out slowly and maintain a slow and steady pace.

Ambition.  One of our hunches is that ambitious athletes push themselves to the point where they incur more adverse symptoms (nausea, cramping, heat exhaustion, etc.) than other athletes who are less concerned about how fast they finish.

Tips for Racing the 25K

In order to have a good experience with the 25K, you should keep your energy up.  In the next several posts I will tell you how to avoid the scourge of heat exhaustion, dehydration, cramping, and nausea.

Eating and Resting for Energy:  If you’ve been training for a long race, your body is capable of storing a lot of energy in the form of fat and sugar.  Muscle sugar (glycogen) is the most important fuel because you’ll deplete it first during the race.  When you’re out of glycogen, you’re out of high-octane muscle fuel and you’ll be forced to slow down.

Eating (In the Days Before the Race):  Eat plenty of starchy foods such as noodles, rice, and bananas.  Eat several pasta meals per day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the Sunday race (take pasta and a little meat in a plastic container with you to work).  Have a high calorie pasta meal Friday evening.

Eating (The Day and Night Before):  Continue your pasta regimen on Saturday morning, adding bananas for breakfast.  Eat light and simple foods after mid-day on Saturday.  If you eat an evening meal it should be very light (a few crackers and a little juice).  A heavy meal will clog up your system with undigested food during the race, which will slow the absorption of liquids and could lead to side stitches.

Don’t Eat on Race Morning, Unless…  The only athletes that should eat before a race are the walkers and slow joggers who will be out there the longest with the least level of exertion.  They can eat a light meal.  Other racers should not eat the morning of the race, so your body doesn’t have to split its energy between racing and digesting food.

Training:  The best way to conserve your energy and avoid injuring yourself, is to minimize your running in the two days before the race.  You don’t have to run at all.  Sleeping/Napping:  Get plenty of rest.  Take naps if you can.  Thursday night is the most important time to get a full night sleep.  Don’t stay out late Friday evening partying.

Pacing.  Conserve your energy by following a conservative pacing plan during the first hour of the race.  After that you should maintain your average target pace at a sustainable level until you are sure you have enough energy to finish without crashing.

Keeping your energy up:  Once you start getting tired after the mid-point of the race, you can augment your energy by sucking on some hard candy pieces.  Don’t use gels unless you are willing to sip from them conservatively.  Never take more than one gel per hour after the mid-point of the race.  They put too much sugar into your system at once.

Sweet Drinks.  Don’t drink Gatorade or other drinks with lots of sugar/sweetness.  If it tastes too sweet, it probably is.  Your stomach will shut down and won’t pass the liquid to your intestines where it can be absorbed.  The result is nausea.  Ugh!

Maltodextrin Drinks.  I recommend drinking SPIZ or other products containing mostly maltodextrins, which are long-chain sugars that take a longer time to digest than simple sugars.  Make sure you water those drinks down, too.  Remember, drinking is far more important (to hydration and optimal performance) than the energy a drink can supply.

Ten Guidelines for Effective Weight Management

Many people ask me what they should do to lose weight.  The better question is what should I do to manage my weight so I don’t gain unnecessary pounds, yet I have enough energy to do the things I want to do, such as run, walk, or jog recreationally.

It turns out that fit individuals usually abide by a set of weight management guidelines that govern their daily eating.  The following ten weight management guidelines will give you an idea of what they tell themselves about their eating.  You shouldn’t expect to abide by all of these guidelines immediately, but you should use them as a starting point for thinking about your current nutritional regimen.

One: Raise your metabolic level with daily exercise. Aerobic exercise burns energy and weight lifting builds muscle that burns energy. Don’t guilt-trip yourself about missing a day of exercise; and don’t obsess about it, either. Do exercise activities that you enjoy.

Two: Adjust your eating to your exercise level.  Lots of exercise allows you to eat more, which is important because we need a variety of nutriments in our diet.  If you overeat one day; under-eat the next (it’s called a mini-diet).  Otherwise, don’t diet.

Three: Have three small meals and one snack every day.  Never miss a meal.  A hungry body turns much of what you eat to fat as a hedge against what it perceives to be starvation.  Have real meals, consisting of whole foods which are good for you.  Avoid the junk food solution.  Desert food counts for calories, but it doesn’t make a meal.

Four: Eat when your body tells you it’s time to eat.  Don’t eat between meals or when others tell you it’s time to eat.  Never allow yourself to become hungry or starved.

Five: Eat minimally—until you are satisfied; not until you are full or stuffed.  All centenarians have one thing in common: they eat 1500 calories a day.  Americans, by contrast, average 3000+ calories a day.  Know your optimum meal portion.  Don’t exceed it.  Eat just enough to last you until the next meal time—about three or four hours.

Six: Don’t rush your meals.  Allow yourself real meal breaks.  Eat slowly/chew your food a lot.  Overweight people don’t chew; they merely position their food for swallowing.  Have a life.  Your work will be there when you finish eating.  Read a good book while you eat.

Seven: Eat a variety of foods that you enjoy.  Eat fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.  Build them into your daily meal routine.  Eat fruit for breakfast.  Eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  Note on body composition:  If you eat 25% fat, your body will be 25% fat.  Same with 30%.  Don’t regularly buy or have any or the following around: ice cream, soda, booze.  Caveat: You can eat or drink anything, as long as you don’t consume a lot of it.

Eight: Substitute good foods for bad in your diet.  This is a life-long process and part of the fun and challenge of learning about nutrition and how it applies to you.  Pay attention to foods that make you feel good (i.e., they give you more health and energy, as opposed to making you feel good emotionally, but bad physically).  Avoid eating comfort foods just because they are comfort foods.

Nine:  Be responsible for buying, preparing and portioning your meals.  Your health and fitness depend on what you eat; it’s your responsibility. Therefore, even if others want to do the buying, preparing, and portioning of your food for you, you must take control of your life by deciding what you will eat, when you will eat, and how much you will eat.

Ten: Be aware of your fitness mission/identity.  Life is transformational.  As such, you are becoming an endurance athlete.  What do you want to look like?  How do you want to feel?  How much are you at stake for being fit?  What happens if you do a good job at it?  What happens if you mess it up?