Following on from recent last blog post, 'If it works, it doesn't get old!' I was deluged with enquiries on race nutrition. That wasn't the point of the article, however I am happy to give my thoughts from what I've observed over 30 years of triathlon.
15 to 30 years ago there were a lot more athletes both pro and age group who were affected by dehydration problems, not just in Ironman but right down to Olympic distance also. Back then water was the prime hydration. There was a lot less information on this subject, and the greater amount of information has gone some way to helping to educate athletes to better hydrate.
At Trisutto we have swung away from water as the primary source of hydration. In fact our athletes are advised that we use water for a cooling product for the head and skin. We also carry some water on the bike so we can wash down calories we intake, and to wash out our mouth. Apart from that we don't use water as a hydration tool.
We believe that any fluid should be used as a calorie intake mechanism, which allows greater intake of much needed calories to keep fueling the machine.
Contrary to the 'new science' that less calories are better it's my observation that most that are walking in races are doing so not because they are not fit or dehydrated but more for a lack of 'real caloried fuel'. If you're an average weighted male or only slightly less for a female, the biggest problem is both carrying and consuming enough calories to effectively fuel your body. If you're a big unit, consuming 600 calories per hour can be a monster problem in itself.
Our observation is that we can use fluid intake to both hydrate and help with calorie intake. Taking it to the extreme degree, some champions not only just use fluid in the race but also use it for their food the day before. i.e. liquid pre-race dinner.
Now, before we need to debate on this, with some individuals it works. The positives can be the elimination of 'number 2 stops' during the bike and/or run that so often happens when athletes eat large pre-race meals. No carrying of bulky food on race day. We only advocate for some to use this extreme method, however don't let this block the commonsense that replacing the water bottle with a bottle that is fluid but can also be 1000 calories in the same space.
Another observation is the over watering that takes place before the race based on fear of being under hydrated on race day. You might also have noticed many athletes carrying around a water bottle or more like three, as they meander through the expo in the days before the race, or the large jugs of water on the tables at their pre-race 'pasta party'.
Before you say their bottle might be filled with electrolytes, you may be right. However when I wander around and ask (yes, I got nothing better to do, I'm just inquisitive) what I can say is 7 out of 10 I ask, do confirm it is straight water and in large amounts.
You might ask what is wrong with that?
And I will tell you - they are making sure they are washing out all the vital minerals / electrolytes that are needed to have a good race. Potassium and magnesium just to name two, are vital to prevent the onset of cramps, not forgetting the big new thing 'salt'. 2 or 3 days of over watering is making you vulnerable to the very thing you fear happening. Not to mention all those pesky toilet stops for 'number 1' in the race itself.
Water is not your best friend for a number of valid reasons.
My tip is to think twice before you fill up those water bottles both before and during the race. If it's not electrolytes or fluid calories, you are actually harming your race performance.
Just the way I see it.