Hydration Lessons

Last weekend was the 2 Oceans Half Marathon. Here is a quick synopsis of my race:

1:17:34 moving time. Great run considering the dodgy knee and sinus problems. I was super stoked even though I know there were a few minutes lost. Could well have been a smashing PB.

Really though, today I didn’t want to talk about the Garmin and its ability to capture the data. That is well documented here. I wanted to get into the gritty that is hydration and one of the most amazing lessons I have learned in the last few months. It goes to more than the Rehidrat Sport I am using. Let’s touch that first, though. I am one of the ambassadors for Rehidrat Sport. I am not here to punt their product, even though I believe it’s an incredible product.

For me, the label and the brand are not what got me interested in using the product. It was the product and the idea on a bigger picture for nutrition. For years we were fed the idea of sugary drinks with loads of stimulants to keep us buzzing throughout the race, as well as during training. After reading about athletes breaking down, having issues with their digestive systems, etc and having experience with some of the effects of continuous sugar spikes, I wanted to go the healthier route.

But I didn’t stop with sports drinks. I cut out sugar in my muesli, coffee, avoided all sugary drinks and avoided the extra sugary fruits, foods, etc. Instead of drinking a coke when I was thirsty I would pack a sachet of Rehidat into a water bottle and have that.

I went from a gel and sugar spiked racing machine to a Rehidrat only racing machine. I took it into training. Before there was Rehidrat Sport, I opted to use normal Rehidrat in my water bottles. 2 sachets per 750ml. I found myself stronger for longer, more consistent and better recovered than before.

I believe that my limiting the sugar spikes, we are, as working athletes (non professionals), limiting the effects of stress on our bodies. This could be my experience alone, but this is what I am here to share, after all. I found I needed to eat less during rides and didn’t need to stuff my face when I got home. This resulted in a leaner, stronger body over the space of 4 months.

I found I slept better if I avoided sugar in the late afternoon as well.

But here is the kicker and the part which you should test in training, not only in races. Learn from your body. I learned to race a little dehydrated. The evidence out there points towards racing a little dehydrated for better performance. Not life threatening dehydrated but just a little thirsty. I spent hours learning where my body felt best versus what I was putting in and found a balance. I took this to races and found a performance increase I was not able to get when loaded with sugar.

Simply, my cravings for the sugar went away and I was able to control my hydration better, effectively increasing performance that way. So at 2 Oceans, I loaded up with Rehidrat the night before and in the morning. I raced 77 minutes with no coke, no gel. Only 1 sachet of water in my mouth, 2 over my head and 1 in the groin (I was heating up around 13km and this is the best place to put water to cool down) during the whole race. No cravings, no need for coke. I felt strong and managed to hold a super even pace most of the way, until the last kilometer when my knee was giving me serious pain.

Anybody out there have similar experiences? I am enjoying playing with this “optimal hydration levels” stuff and have found a tool which really works. I was humbled when they heard about it and wanted to associate with the Urban Ninja brand as I was already a massive fan of the product itself. Give it a try on your next ride.

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