One of the main reasons I see clients in the clinic when they are training for a long distance run is for exhaustion; they feel tired all the time. As part of an individual assessment, more times than not, poor fluid intake is a common factor. Drinking enough fluids and keeping hydrated (maintaining the body’s water levels) is essential leading into a run, during the run and following your run.
Fluids are easily lost in sweat, regardless of the temperature while exercising. This can lead to dehydration, loss of concentration and poor sports performance. Ensure you have had plenty to drink in the hours prior to the event, during the run – depending on the length of the event and following the run.
Water is the fluid of choice for shorter events, and sports drinks can be used for events lasting longer than 60-90minutes; when you will need to start replenishing your electrolytes and energy. Commercial sports drinks can vary greatly, so look for ones providing the right balance of carbohydrate (energy), electrolytes and fluid to adequately re-fuel your body and provide fluid for hydration. An ideal carbohydrate concentration should be approximately 6-8gm per litre which will have the best uptake. Higher carbohydrate loads can impair the gastric emptying process and lead to gut upset during exercise, impairing performance.
If the day is going to be hot, take a small water bottles (200-250mls) with you. How much and how often you need to drink will depend on the event and your specific requirements, but remember this should all be practised in your training sessions, including the fluids you drink and the frequency.
Following a run the aim is to replace approximately 150% of the fluid volume lost over the next 4 to 6 hours. The best way to know how much fluid you have lost during a run is to weigh yourself before and after a training session. Therefore if you lose 2kgs during a standard 20km run, then you should aim to replace approximately 3litres of fluid in the first 4-6 hours following the run.
Many clients can tell me all about their training and race programs, what they will eat, drink, sleep and even wear, but often people forget about the post run recovery food and fluids. What you eat and drink after your run is just as important as what you have before and during your run. Your recovery nutrition supports muscle repair and replenishment. Meaning is it the beginning of your training program for your next run.
The aim of ensuring you recover well with foods and fluids is to:
- Replenish muscle fuel stores, used during the run;
- Include protein to support muscle repair and synthesis; and
- Restore fluid and electrolytes lost during the run through your sweat
Depending on your access to food and drinks following the race this could be as simple as a flavoured milk drink and muesli bar, fruit and yoghurt or a wholegrain sandwich with meat / cheese and salad. Of course including plenty of water for hydration is essential.
By Rachel Jeffery – Dietitian / APD