Fueling During

Energy expenditure is extremely high in endurance sports and a lot of athletes are failing to adequately fuel their bodies. Under-eating is commonly seen among endurance athletes.

Hydration During Exercise

Hydration is a complex topic and deserves a special attention. Hydration before, during and after exercise is discussed in the post that can be accessed here: Performance Oriented Hydration Guidelines for Athletes. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest you do so, before we move on.

To refresh your memory, the goal of hydration is not to completely stop your body from loosing fluids, but to prevent it from loosing more than a 2% in body weight from fluid loss.

Drink to thirst! Quite simple. BUT make sure you don’t over drink. There is such a nasty thing called hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the body fluids). Over drinking during exercise can cause dilution of sodium which eventually leads to health problems and even death. Utilizing sodium in your hydration solution helps to maintain blood plasma volume and reduce the risk of over-hydration.

For high intensity and workouts longer than 60 minutes we begin to utilize hydration solutions or sports drinks. When choosing a isotonic drink for your workout aim for the following carbohydrate & electrolyte concentration:

Carbohydrates: 4% – 8%. To calculate it, divide the grams of carbs (sugar) per serving size by the volume of the serving size (in mL), then multiply by 100 . So let’s say you want to fill your bicycle flask of 500 mL with a 6% solution we will need 30 grams of carbs (sugars).

Electrolytes. Formula: 0.5-0.7 grams of sodium per 1 liter (34 oz) of water. So in the same 500 mL cycling water bottle you will need to add 250-350 milligrams of sodium.


Fat or Carbohydrate for Fuel?

Adequate glycogen storage in your body is the key for optimal performance. Exercising at low and moderate intensities your body uses both: muscle glycogen and fat. The higher exercise intensity, the more carbohydrates are required to fuel your engine. Below is an example of how your body shifts from using fat for fuel towards running purely on carbohydrates. This is my VO2 test, conducted in professional laboratory:

Red column on a left is my heart rate (HR), measured in beasts per minute (bpm). Two columns on the right show the carbohydrate (CH) and fat (F) utilization related to heart rate. What we see here is that at lower intensities (<111 bpm) my body works primarily on fat as fuel. However the higher intensity of the exercise becomes, the faster my heart beats, more carbohydrates are being burned. Approximately at 111 bpm my body’s engine works as a pure hybrid, utilizing about the same amount of fat and carbohydrates for fuel. As the intensity increases, less and less fat is being used to fuel the exercise, until my body shifts completely to using carbs for fuel at 163 bpm.

Maintaining optimal carbohydrate stores is essential not only for good performance, but for protecting your health. Your nervous system, and brain primarily use carbohydrates for fuel. When glycogen stores get depleted and blood sugar level is low your brain will do anything to stop you from continuing exercising. You “hit the wall”. Pack your bags buddy, cause you are not going anywhere at this point. Consider yourself lucky if you just finish the race.


90 to 120 minutes are the short exercises and include sprint distance triathlons, time trials, some mountain bike races, 5-K, 10-K etc. What sets such events from longer-distance races is the high intensity.


The main focus is on hydration and the greatest nutritional need is WATER. Assuming adequate nutrition in the days and hours before the race, the athletes body is well prepared with glycogen stores. 
Taking in solid foods not necessary. 


During prolonged or high-intensity physical activities, blood flows out of the least important organs, such as gut to supply your muscles and skin for optimal performance. It impairs your gut’s ability to process and absorb the foods, therefore carbohydrates at this duration is best in a liquid form. Solid foods are better tolerated at very low intensities or exercising in cold-weather.

Don’t sacrifice your health and performance training in a low-carb states during competitive seasons or when the training load is high. Training in such way will reduce your body’s ability to utilize it’s preferred source of fuel (carbohydrates) for energy, which leads to the series of health issues: hormonal disturbances (low testosterone in men), injuries, sickness, sleep disorders, burnouts, mood swings (moodiness). Don’t work AGAINST your body, but work WITH it. Fuel appropriately and it will pay you back with those fitness gains you are chasing for.

The main focus is to maintain adequate glycogen levels in muscles and liver to delay fatigue and prevent “bonking“. Some research shows that including small amounts of protein may be beneficial in improving performance during endurance events. Protein requires additional energy to break down in your gut therefore it can be too much of a load on your digestion system, causing diarrhea and nausea. Test it on yourself!

Inadequate carbohydrate fueling during high-intensity and prolonged exercise can result in muscle wasting.

High glycemic index drinks with much greater maltodextrin or glucose than fructose are preferred. Caffeinated sports drinks or gels has been shown to enhance the utilization of the glucose in sports drinks. Be careful, too much coffee may cause you shit your pant, when intensity get’s higher. Distribute 200-300 calories per hour in equal chunks, ideally from liquid sources. As always, drink enough to satisfy thirst


Marathon, ultra-marathon, half-Ironman (70.3), Ironman (140.6), cycling races like century rides, ultra-marathon cross-country ski and rowing events fall under this category.

Participating in such events your main focus has to be on your health. Such long exercises is a true test of your nutrition and hydration strategies. Longer durations give more opportunities to fuck up, either catching hypoanatremia, or bonking on the field, running out of fuel.

Typically intensities during such events are staying low, meaning that your body is going to rely on fat for fuel. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need carbs anymore, we do, but not as much as at higher intensities. As discussed previously your body is a hybrid when it comes to fueling the muscles and the ratio of fat:carbs being utilized depends on intensity of physical activity, therefore your heart rate.

Fat burns in a carbohydrate fire”, meaning that if carbohydrate stored as muscle glycogen runs low, the body will gradually lose its capacity to produce energy from fat.

If the athlete is behind the carbohydrate intake versus expenditure curve, catching up is difficult and may be accomplished only by slowing dramatically or stopping the exercise. 
Carbohydrate must be taken in right from the beginning.

I shared my personal experience with bonking and how it impacts the performance here: IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella, Spain. February 23, 2019

The highest rate at which an athlete can expand the energy is 1000 calories/hour. It is almost impossible to replace all of it during the exercise, therefore it is really important to eat enough carbohydrates in 24-48 hours prior to the event. If you did, you’ve got about 1500-2000 calories in form of carbohydrates stored in your body, which should last you for a good part of the race, depending on intensity and time exercising.

During 4-12 hours events:

1. Consume approximately 200-400 calories / hour equally distributed every 10-20 minutes.
2. Calories should be coming from carbohydrates, ideally in liquid form.

Formula:
min 0.25 – max 0.33 grams carbs per hour x body weight (lbs)
Or
min 1 calorie/hour x body weight (lbs)

Therefore 150 lb (68 kg) athlete should aim on consuming no less than 150 calories per hour just from carbohydrates)

In addition, taking in some protein could help to the onset of nervous system fatigue. But keep in mind that protein requires extra hydration for absorption and digestion. Too much of it can cause nausea.

Use the guidelines above as the starting point and experiment. Every body is different, therefore go and test things out yourself.


If you’re up to something like this – you’re crazy and I wish you good luck! Nutrition is critical for such events Recommendations are the same as for the previous section, but in addition the solid foods now become necessity. It may include bananas, cookies, jelly sandwiches, fruit juices etc. Foods with higher glycemic index should be chosen. Don’t forget the protein, especially branched-chain amino acids.


That’s all I had in regards to fueling during the exercise. I hope you learned something new and implementation of it will improve your performance. Below I also attached a “cheat sheet” to be used as a quick reference for Pre, During and Post race fueling.

In addition, I uploaded the Race Pace Predictor, Fueling & Bonking Calculator for cycling, made by FASTFITNESSTIPS. This is a great tool to use while planning your race fueling strategy. Here are the video instructions of how to use it: Fueling Science! How to pace your cycling to avoid bonking.

If you have anything to add or correct me, please don’t hesitate to do so. I welcome any constructive comments and looking to learn.

Take care and stay strong my friends!

IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella, Spain. February 23, 2019 ~Bonking~

BRICK

2:45 hours at 190 Watts + 15 min Run off bike

brick workout is any workout that combines swimming, biking and/or running into a single session. The most common example is the bike to run brick, where you go for a run immediately after finishing a bike ride.


Pre-exercise meal (30 minutes before):
2 bananas + BCAA + Coffee ☕️ (45 carbs 150 calories)


Fueling

38 g (carbs/hour) x 2.75 (2 hours 45 minutes) = 105 grams of carbs required
2 protein bars + Cliff energy chews = 100 C 21 F 28 P 660 calories


Hydration

The GOAL: 
prevent loosing more than 2%  (1.5 kg) of body weight in fluids. 

What do I need?
Sweat Rate: 1500 mL x 2.75 = 4125 mL
Sodium: 0.5 x 4125 = 2062 mg
Carbs: (X / 4125) x 100 = 5% -> X=0.05 x 4125= 206 g of carbs!?

What I got:

G2 Gatorade: 6 bottles (591 mL) + own solution (580 mL)= 4126 mL 
Carbs: 12×6 = 72 g
Sodium: 270×6 + 330 = 1970 mg
Additional Sodium: AminoPro 2 scoops 230 mg + Vega hydrator 100 mg = 330 mg in 580 mL of water💦
Calories: 300


Total Calories: 960 calories: 350 calories/hour
Using the Cooling Fan


Results

Pre-weight: 69.3 kg
Post-weight: 69.3 kg
Liquids consumed: 3930 mL
Sweat Rate: 1430 mL/hour (confirmed previous calculations)

Total fluid loss: 3930 kg (2% body weight)

I am satisfied with this numbers and consider my calculations right on point. It’s a win!

BIKE

What do you know about “bonking”?

The first 40-50 minutes felt strong, pedaling without too much of an effort (RPE 3-4). Wasn’t fueling until 30 minutes into the ride. Approximately at minute 50 my power began going down increasing RPE.

Since then it was a total suffer fest. No matter how much I ate or drank, my power kept going down and down. I hit the wall or how cyclists call it “bonked”. Glycogen in my muscles and liver got depleted making my body fatigue and bonk. It felt incredibly hard to keep pushing 190 watts and I had to slow down multiple times for 10-15 seconds, because I just couldn’t keep going. My mind began playing tricks on me, but no matter what I did, I just couldn’t physically spin my legs. Even knowing my legs were hurting, it wasn’t about pain. I simply couldn’t force my body to push the pedals. Multiple times I had thoughts to quit and stop this suffering as I couldn’t keep up with workout.

Here is how bonking looks like on a graph:

While heart rate is going up, speed and power falls down.

RUN

Immediately after the ride I put my running gear on and went out for a 15 minutes run. My legs felt like jelly, running at 5:28 /km pace RPE felt like 6-7. Didn’t try to push, making the emphasis on keeping the form.

Severe diarrhea hit me 5 minutes into the run. I honestly thought I would shit my pants… In addition to that had minor stomach cramps. Had to finish the cool down part short… at the restroom.


Lessons Learned:

  1. 3,000 calories / day with 400 grams of carbohydrates I currently eat on my diet is not enough to fulfill the energy demands. I went glycogen depleted into the training and payed the price.
  2. 100 grams of carbs from pre-meal burned in 40 minutes.
  3. Confirmed my Sweat Rate calculations. Approximately 1500 mL/hour.
  4. Learned what the bonking is and how it feels.
  5. If you drain your glycogen tanks, there is no way to refuel it on the fly, while keeping the power & speed.
  6. Cooling fan didn’t make significant change in my sweat rate.
  7. I don’t like energy chews. They get stuck in teeth.

What will I do different?

  1. Increase my carbohydrate consumption to 600 grams/day. Total daily calorie intake: 3,900 calories
  2. Always have a big, carbohydrate-rich meal at least 90 minutes before workout.
  3. Try consuming liquid calories. See how that feels on stomach and absorption.

AMERICA’S TOUGHEST MUDDER SOUTH, Central TEXAS – MAY 05, 2018

I often meet people, healthy people, who tell me they wish they “could” run, wish they “could” bike, wish they ”could” get in shape. They wish they had the discipline or self-control needed. They act as if you are either born with this mysterious gift of willpower or not…

The bad news is that no one is born with it, but the good news is that it is trainable. So you tried going on a diet and couldn’t stick with it? You started a new business and it failed? The relationship you thought was “the one” fell apart? None of those experiences are “good”. However on the flip side, people that went through those experiences came out better, stronger, tougher, especially if they used that setback as a way to learn to avoid repeating mistakes. IT’S ALL GOOD MENTAL TRAINING.

…it’s been 7.5 hours of constant running and I definitely don’t feel like continue the race as my body is hurting and doing everything possible and impossible to stop me from continuing. I’ve got one more hour until the finish line is closed and that means only one thing to me – I’ve got a chance to continue and achieve my goal of 30 miles. Unless I’m suffering a serious physical injury that prevents me from taking a step, I know I’m not going to stop. I know I’m going to continue on, come hell or snow. 30 miles behind, 8 hours of constant running, but still finding enough energy to crack that awkward smile on my face… This race costed me three nails on my toes and the level of physical pain I haven’t experienced before. It made me tougher and stronger, as IT’S ALL GOOD MENTAL TRAINING

Fueling Before


There are six things we are trying to achieve with of proper pre-exercise nutrition:

  1. Restore muscle glycogen (especially important for morning training). A lot of athletes ignore food first thing in the morning. Don’t be like most! Going into training fasted or under-fueled will catch your up later with what cyclists call “bonking” or runners call “hitting the wall”. You simply run off the gas (glycogen) and your body refuse to deal with you any longer. You are forced to stop, you lost!
  2. Satisfy hunger. Realizing that you’re hungry in the last hour before exercise or race is too late. Eating so close to start will only harm you.
  3. Boost motivation
  4. Delay fatigue
  5. Optimize performance. This is a biggie! This is why you continue reading this chapter. Other than simply restocking your glycogen stores and fluid levels, proper pre-training nutrition has direct correlation with your performance.
  6. Improve post-exercise recovery. If you start with your fuel tank on empty, even if you eat and hydrate during training, your recovery will be compromised. The better fueled and hydrated you are going into the training, the faster you will recover from it afterwards.

WHAT?

no-salad

Salads are bad for you! This is the only time you hear me say it – right before training or racing. We are not talking here about eating for health and longevity, we are fueling up our carb tanks for performance. Understanding that, we stay away from fiber, high fat and protein foods. Those foods are slow to digest, may cause bloating and diarrhea during high intensity trainings.

Here is your general guidelines to follow, when deciding on how you are going to fill up your body for upcoming training:

  1. Eat mostly carbohydrates. The more time you have before exercise, the lower GI of your food choices should be.
  2. Stay away from fiber.
  3. Include protein, especially BCAAs. The 2018 Research sponsored by Western University in Canada have shown that taking in BCAAs before aerobic exercise improves endurance and stimulates protein synthesis.
  4. Hydrate. Drink to satisfy thirst.
  5. No foods or snacks in one hour prior to event or training. Is to prevent hypoglycemia (rapid insulin spike, followed by drop in blood sugar level).

The following are examples foods to eat prior the event:

  • Fruits with Eggs. Fruits (Low in fiber: bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon) + Eggs (Easy to digest and is a great source of BCAAs)
  • Applesauce (Unsweetened) + Protein Powder. Applesauce is easy to digest and is low in fiber. Add egg or whey protein powder to slow the glycemic reaction and to add BCAAs
  • Baby Food (easily digested by anyone) + Animal Protein (Turkey, Chicken or Fish)
  • Liquid Meals. Stress reduces our abilities to digest food and I’ve had a nervous stomach prior to events before. Blending foods makes it easier to digest
  • Sports Bars with Protein. My least favorite option. Whenever possible, stay away from engineered foods
  • Fluids, especially WATER. In addition, a strong brewed coffee has been shown to improve endurance performance. Downsides of caffeine: upset stomach and nervousness

No-no foods:

  • Salads
  • High-fiber meals
  • Broccoli, apples, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, asparagus
  • Sweeteners, sugar alcohols, artificial flavors
  • Beans and lentils
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Spicy foods

High-octane foods:

  • Potatoes (sweet potatoes, yams)
  • Banana
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Dried fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice

Of course, eating moderate-high GI foods will cause the insulin spike and shut down fat oxidation and your body will shift to burning carbs for fuel. This is concerning for many athletes that try to loose weight and train in fasted state to improve fax oxidation.

tenor (1).gif

You got to pick one or another:

  1. You burn fat and loose wight
  2. You train and race at you peak performance, stimulating fitness gains.

Those two are not compatible. If you chose the option #2, continue reading as I’ll get more in depth on how to fuel up for performance. If your goal is to loose fat, you chubby panda, I suggest you read on some of my posts here.


HOW MUCH & WHEN?

To boost your performance, carbohydrate-rich easy-to-digest foods should be consumed no less than 1-2 hours before the exercise or race.

Everybody is different and the amount is determined by body size and gender. You should listen to your body, however here is some general guidelines:

  • 3-4 hours before – Large meal (500-800 calories)
  • 1-3 hours before – Medium-size meal (250-500 calories)
  • 30 min – 1.5 hour before – Small meal, snack (100-250 calories)
  • 10 minutes before start – Sports drink or Gel (100-200 calories), followed by 180-240ml of water.

Race Week Diet

Typically a week before competition, athletes go into a “tapering” stage, where training volume and intensity is reduced to ensure the athlete is well rested before the event. Since they don’t train as much, it makes some athletes confused with their food choices. Let’t keep it simple: this is not the time to make changes in your day-to-day diet. You should continue to eat the same diet as while you was training, but with slightly reduces amount of calories consumed.

Skip the pasta party! The day before the race slightly add more carbohydrates to ensure your glycogen tanks are full. It’s a great time to treat yourself to some: bananas, peaches, watermelon, dried fruits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams. To keep your blood sugar levels in check from such high GI foods, add protein and fat with each meal. In addition, reduce the fiber and eat at your usual times.

A tip: The order in which you eat carbs and proteins matter. Simply by switch the order you eat your food you can control you glucose and insulin levels. Eat protein and vegetables first and carbohydrates at the end. Never eat carbohydrates alone. Read more on Food Order.

References:

Lemon, Peter. “Effect of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation on Muscle Damage – Full Text View.” Search of: Spain – List Results – ClinicalTrials.gov, Western University, Canada, 2018, clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03766815.

IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella, Spain. February 16, 2019

The closer I get to my first IRONMAN, the more race specific my training gets. On today’s agenda is the “BRICK”:

2 hour 15 minutes Endurance Bike Ride (180w) immediately followed by10 minutes run of the bike

Fueling Before:

  • 2 cups of coffee 
  • Essential Amino acids 
  • Whole Grapefruit 360g (40 carbs) 

Hydration

Considering my previous Sweat Rate calculations: ~1500 mL/hour * Workout: 2 hr 15 min = 3000 mL of fluids (4xG2 bottles (2840 ml))

Today I experiment with hydration solution G2 from Gatorade. A bottle (710 mL) is a 5% solution with 330 mg of sodium. (240 cal/64 carbs)

It’s important to mention that the calories in hydration solution are not meant to deliver energy to the muscles, but to improve the fluid absorption. 

Fueling

The formula I use to calculate carbohydrate needs:

  • 0.25 x 150 lbs = 38 g/hour
  • 2.15 x 38 = 82 grams of carbs
  • 2 Protein Bars + banana = 585 cal (86c/23f/15p)

Total Calorie Intake (hydration+fueling): 825 cal (150c/23f/15p) / 2.15 hours = 384 cal/hour

Results:

Had 3 bottles of G2, left one unopened. Found it difficult to drink this much. Couldn’t say the same about eating part. Sugars are always fun. So here is what I’ve got:

  • Pre-Weight: 68.4 kg
  • Post-Weight: 66.9 kg
  • Fluids Consumed: 2130 mL (710 mL less than suggested)
  • Total Fluid Loss: 3630 mL
  • Sweat Rate: 1613 mL/hour
  • Energy Expanded: 1630 calories / 2:30 hours = 652 calories/hour

Felt strong on the bike physically and mentally. Was able to hold ~180w for 2 hours straight. The ride ended up at 100 kilometers, averaging at 44.5 km/h. Running off the bike, my legs felt literally like jelly. Ran 2 kilometers at 4:56 /km pace.

Overall I am impressed by the power output on the bike and how good I felt.

BETTER.FASTER.STRONGER.

Sky is the limit!

Performance Oriented Hydration Guidelines for Athletes


Do you want to get the taste of every shade of pain? I’ve got a perfect recipe for you – get yourself dehydrated. All you need is to lose just 1%-2% worth of your body’s weight through the fluid loss. Here is how you do it: wake up early in the morning to get that 90 minutes bike ride done, before work or school. Have nothing besides a cup or two of coffee and jump straight on the trainer. I guarantee that your heart rate won’t go higher than zone 3-4, no matter how hard you push yourself. RPE of 3-4 will feel like 7-8, making every second of your workout count as you courageously suffer through it. Besides that, you might experience some of the following symptoms, but they most likely have nothing to do with you being dehydrated. Push harder!

  • Headache (wether changes)
  • Fatigue (don’t be lazy!)
  • Dizziness (thats ok, just don’t close your eyes)
  • Increased thirst (resist! less water = higher RPE)
  • Tachycardia (you won’t even feel it)
  • Weak pulse (don’t worry about that)
  • Chills/cold hands (put on an extra jacket)
  • Organ failure (people live even with one kidney)
  • Shrunken brain (less weight to carry)

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke – those are the things that will add more flavor to your experience of riding the paintrain. There are few tips on how to access those add on features and amplify your suffering:

  • Do some interval training outside, including extreme spikes in intensity or volume
  • Try exercising when sick. Disease and fewer is not an excuse to skip a workout
  • Put on as many clothes as you have. Let’s see how many cycling jerseys you’ve got in your closet
  • Neglect all the clues and heat-related illness signals your body sends you

Few more workouts like this and you begin questioning your abilities as an athlete and your existence on this planet overall. A little shit-talking voice in your head gets louder and louder, yelling at you to stop this suffer fest and quit the sport all together. Perfect! There are many other ways to get on the paintrain with a first-class seat, but I will not discuss all of them just yet. If it’s something that you’re specifically looking for, let me know and I will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to obtain the ticket to the suffer-land for free.


Let’s get serious


Performance Hydration

Let’s talk first about why exactly is hydration so important?

I bet you heard a million times that making sure you are well hydrated with clean water is essential to your well-being. I’ll just refresh a few things in your memory in regards to why you need to drink water.

About 40 liters of water contains a 150 pounds human body. Every day you loose 2-3 liters of fluids. Your body doesn’t produce water and heavily rely on external sources. Without proper amount of water, your body fails to:

  • Transport fuel to your working muscles
  • Eliminate the byproducts of your trainings from your cells
  • Keeping you alive and not let you dies from overheating by cooling itself down.
  • Digest the foods you eat and convert them into the fuel for your next training sessions.
  • Keep your brain functioning, making you a bit smarter than your dog. Concentration is compromised.
  • Maintain the blood volume. The sweat that you loose during exercise comes out of your blood plasma. Loose too much sweat -> blood volume goes down -> performance decreases.

The list goes on and on, but the main point here is that WATER IS LIFE.


Dehydration


When endurance athlete “hits the wall” or getting “bonked”, running out of energy, he can grab a gel or coke and rapidly put that necessary calories into the engine. Up to a certain point dehydration is manageable and there no performance decline. However, if the athlete is getting dehydrated, there is no fast way to restore hydration status. When is too late? Over 2% of body’s mass lost through the fluids links to a low performance. Your main task as an athlete is to stay above 2% or 3% off for fluids lost during exercise. Its easy to miss the point of not coming back and once you’re in the hole of dehydration, you’re not coming out of it in a course of the event. Game is over! Or it for the least your performance is highly compromised.

A symptom of dehydration is often expressed as hunger. That sound weird, but it’s true. When people reach for carbohydrate rich foods, because they’re hungry in the pm its often the fact that they simply dehydrated. By retaining hydration status during the day, it get easier to manage portion control and quality of food consumed.


Hyponatremia


On the flip side is over-hydration problem – hyponatremia. A lot of athletes are over-hydrating lowering the body sodium levels to dangerously low levels. Your blood becomes thicker and saltier and you feel thirsty. If you drink a lot of water or a lot of low-sodium fluids you actually diluting your blood down. You hold about 32 oz (950 mL) of fluids in your stomach. Depending on your body size and exercise intensity it empties at a rate about 30-42 oz (890-1242 mL) per hour. If you drink too much, too fast, your stomach gets overfilled, having no choice, but make you vomit to remove the excess. Overdrinking can cause nausea.


Electrolytes


You noticed in the past that your sweat leaves white marks on your clothing. Sometimes less, sometimes more. With sweat you never loose just the water, but also electrolytes. Without those positively and negatively charged ions you won’t be able to contract your muscles properly, making your running form seem more like a butt injured bear running away from the hunter. Potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium are the micronutrients that in proper combination allow your body to remain in homeostasis by maintaining the fluid balance. Sodium is predominant electrolyte so you mainly loose this important nutrient with your sweat.

Five main electrolytes inside your body

If you don’t replace the fluids and electrolytes lost, it will essentially pull a cascade of negative events that will make you a dehydrated bitch. Luckily for you, mother nature provided your body with reliable fluid level management feature – a thirst. When too much water leaves your cells – they shrink and your brain gets notified immediately. If you feel thirsty, you’re on your way to a suffer-land, sponsored by dehydration. Listen to your body and drink enough to satisfy thirst, not more or less.


Better Hydration = Better Performance


You may not feel thirsty during exercise, but you absolutely need to hydrate while you exercise. Plain water is the best! There are three kinds you are safe to go with:

  • Purified water. This water is free of contaminants and produced by deionization, distillation, reverse osmosis and carbon filtration.
  • Spring water. Spring water is the “natural” version of purified water. may have been disinfected, but most impurities and contaminants remain. In terms of quality, spring water is much closer to tap water than purified water.
  • Alkaline water. It’s less acidic than tap water, however there is little evidence that its healthier than regular tap water.

“Taste and temperature have no perceptible effect on fluid absorption”

Karel, L

Sports drinks

Hypertonics. They are the high-calorie sports drinks or simply soda. Drinking these is not optimal way to hydrate as your body has to move water out of the bloodstream into the gut to absorb the calories within the drink.

Isotonics or Hypotonics. This types of drinks are formulated to a concentration that is similar to your blood, which makes them a good hydration tools.


Coffee & Tea

Coffee is considered as probably harmless and possibly healthy. Just keep in mind that it’s a central nervous system stimulant so try not to over drink it.Commonly accepted safe dose of it is no more than 32 oz (946 ml) a day.

Tea also has caffeine in it, but way less than coffee. It is often praised for its health benefits and can help to fight free radicals, reduce the risk of heart related disease and even cancer. Herbal teas increase immunity, support weight loss, control appetite, promote better sleep and lower stress levels. It’s not a magic bullet, but if you get to pick between tea and coffee, I would go with the first one.


Juice, Energy drinks and Alcohol

Liquid produce is not healthier than whole, solid produce. Real juice, even with no added sugars is a very easy way to over-consume the calories, compared with eating whole foods. However it may come in handy after the intense workout, assisting in rehydration and delivering vitamins with minerals. To make it even a better post-workout option, add a tea spoon of pink Himalayan salt to make it more similar to rehydration sports drinks.

Energy drinks is a no-no! 5-hour Energy, NOS, Monster Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar etc. is a poison straight from a can. Sugar, enormous amount of calories and caffeine along with other stimulants will put you at risk of cardiac arrest. Save your heart and opt from such drinks, especially during the exercise.

There are no benefits to alcohol consumptionSorry. The use of alcohol even in small amounts can negatively affect your hydration status, sleep, recovery, motivation and overall performance.Not to mention, it causes weight gain and weakens your immune system. If you are an athlete, especially during a competition season, do yourself a favor – stay away from alcohol.


Know your Sweat Rate


Everyone looses fluids differently, therefore to better understand how much you are sweating it’s important to calculate your sweat rate. Right before your next big workout, jump on scales and record your weight. When finished, re-weight yourself and calculate your sweat rate using the example of how to estimate the sweat rate for 150 lbs athlete after a 2 hour 30 minutes bike ride:

  • Pre-exercise weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
  • Post-exercise weight: 148.5 lbs (67.3 kg)
  • Weight (fluids) loss: 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) or 24.7 oz (700 mL)
  • Water consumed during exercise: 3 liters (100 oz)
  • Total Sweat Loss: 24.7 oz + 100 oz = 124.7 oz (3688 mL)
  • SWEAT RATE: 124.7 oz / 2.5 hours = 50 oz/hour (1480 mL/hour)

References:

HEALTHY PEE CHART [Digital image]. (2017, January 30). Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://hydratem8.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/healthy-pee-chart_03.png

HRV. Is it really worth the hype?

Unlike professional athletes, a lot of people manage to balance full-time jobs, family commitments and relationships with training. Training and competing, tight deadlines at work, travel across time zones, misunderstandings with people you care about, illnesses, dealing with difficult kids – all accumulate and add to psychological and physiological stress. Add on top of problems at work one or two hard training sessions, sprinkle it with sleep deprivation and you are well on your way to burnout and injury.

Mood swings, food cravings, inconsistency and unpredictability in athletic performance, lack of motivation, low energy levels are only the symptoms of system overload. You feel drained and totally destroyed. At 3 pm you fall asleep on the toilet at work, or worse, while driving back home. Total load is the term proposed by International Olympic Committee. In addition to your training and competing stress, it takes into account the daily life stressors.

Faster, better, stronger, harder! Sleep less, work more! Sleep for the weak! No pain – no gain! Chasing “gains” in our sports, we totally neglect psychological stressors and daily life hassles. We are so good at pushing ourselves, but so bad at recovering. Do you really think you can keep on abusing and pushing you body this way forever without any consequences? How long do you think you can last until it breaks? The question is not IF, the question is WHEN? Understanding the implications of total load and how to manage it – is critical to achieving your goals.

Modern technologies allow people to monitor so many body metrics: Heart rate during exercise; Resting heart rate (RHR); Sleep duration; Sleep stages; Caloric consumption and expenditure; Glucose and Ketone levels, you name it. We have access to data, that only a few decades ago was available to scientists in research labs. So many metrics at your hand and inability to make sense of it leads to information overload and analysis paralysis.

Information is gold. You will learn what the HRV is, and can it help you to improve your health, well-being and sports performance. I will teach you how to track and interpret your HRV data and show you real life examples of how daily life events and trainings impact your performance and recovery.


By default, Mother Nature has programmed your autonomic nervous system (ANS) with two operation systems: Sympathetic OS and Parasympathetic OS. They both work simultaneously, however performing totally different tasks.

Sympathetic Operation System

This is the system that has direct access to the “red button” which in situations threatening survival will prime your body for action.

Muscles contract, and begin to convert glycogen into glucose.

Heart rate ramps up.

Bronchial tubes dilate to facilitate better gas exchange.

Pupils dilate to enhance visual input, even in low light.

Hearing shuts down (auditory exclusion – loss of hearing).

Vision becomes “tunneled” (peripheral vision shuts down).

You might start shaking.

You feel almost like rocket fuel has been poured into your system. Nitrous oxide is fueling your engine. You are READY TO EXPLODE at any second now. Flames are shooting down your exhaust pipes. Go get them!

This system saved your great-great-great-…-great father’s life, when saber-toothed tiger decided to have some homosapien for dinner. It is the reason why you are being alive. It was developed from necessity as a survival mechanism to prepare your body respond with everything it got in a matter of milliseconds. This system is awesome.

Parasympathetic Operation System

Manual NHRA top fuel driver Brittany Force (right) deploys her parachutes alongside Pat Dakin during round one eliminations for the US Nationals.

Unlike SO system, Parasympathetic OS is designed to slow you dow. This system is responsible to deploy the parachutes when the race is over. It maintains both mental and physical health by helping your body to calm down from stress reaction you’ve had and divert energy from other body processes to “rest and digest”. It’s a pit stop, where you get repaired, refueled and prepared for the next race.

  • Turns on digestion system, sending you to use the restroom
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Makes you horny
  • Puts brakes on the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure after the sympathetic nervous system has activated the fight or flight response

Now that everything is behind, it’s time to chill and restore the energy you expanded.


HRV, What are you?

Heart Rate Variability –  is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. 

Unlike the car’s engine, your heart doesn’t beat with exact same frequency each moment. The pauses between beats are not equal and can range from 0.85 and 1.35 seconds.

Note: The longest intervals between beats occur when you exhale, and the shortest intervals when you inhale.

HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat which is controlled by autonomic nervous system (ANS).


Is it Worth the Hype?

For the past 4 months, every single morning I measured my HRV using HRV4Training IOS app. It costed me $10 for the app which promised to provide data analytics on the relation between physiological parameters, training and performance.
It does not require any extra sensors and use iPhones flashlight with camera to measure your heart rate (technique is called photoplethysmography).
The process of measuring is really easy:

  1. Place your fingertip exactly on the camera. Touch the camera gently
  2. Try not to move for the duration of the whole test, and breathe freely, without forcing any unnatural breathing pattern
  3. Stay still for 1 minute

After each measurement the app will output the HRV Score. Higher score (or greater variability between heart beats) usually means that the body has a strong ability to tolerate stress or is strongly recovering from prior accumulated stress. At rest, a high HRV is generally favorable and a low HRV is unfavorable.

I also been journaling my emotional conditions, energy levels and training performances during that time period. I collected a lot of data to see if there are any patterns or corrections between HRV and my athletic performances , as well as overall feeling.


Traveling & Racing

Ukraine, Euro-tour, Marathon, Half-Marathon

From December 29th to January 19th I put A LOT of stress on my body and mind. I flew to Kiev, Ukraine from Toronto changing 8 time zones. I visited 5 countries during the road trip through the Europe. I drove over 5,000 km. I ran a marathon on January 5th in Paris and a half-marathon week later.
Below is the data I got from the app during that crazy trip:

Left picture shows the recovery points and the right one shows the heart rate.
To my surprise, app measurements show that cross-continental flight to another part of the world didn’t harm my body too much, neither the marathon did. Almost throughout the entire time of travel, training and competing my recovery points stayed nice and high, even higher then when I was back home.
Same story with heart rate. It stayed low during the entire time, showing the positive trend even after the marathon.

Looking at this graphs it seems that my body handled travel, training and racing very well. In fact the scores are better than I had, while back home in Canada.

Back Home

This is where it gets really interesting! Immediately right after returning back home, everything went down.
My recovery points fell straight down, continuing this negative trend for 7 days!
We can also see direct correlation to heart rate readings. For a week it continued to creep up indicating that my body is having a really hard time.

My theory is that during the time spent traveling and in Ukraine, my body was under some sort of adrenaline or in defense mode to absorb the stress. Shortly after I returned back home and touched my bed, my body switched off the defense mode and literally fell apart.

Not to mention that despite downward trends I felt good mentally and emotionally.


Can HRV predict good and bad performances?

Let’s put travel and stress associated to the side and evaluate the data during regular training under normal conditions. Consistent journaling allows me to go back and see when I felt particularly good or bad, strength or weakness.
I used my post-workout comments to compare them with HVR scores on that particular day.


Below Average / Bad Performances

In contrast to low HRV scores, let’s review some more recent data with higher scores. Did I feel and perform better with high HRV scores?


Great performances / Breakthroughs


Conclusions

“Information is only useful if it’s actionable

Now that we reviewed the data, lets bring the elephant into the room and answer the main question:

Does HRV4Training provide data analytics on the relation between physiological parameters, training and performance?

In my case it DOES NOT.

During the 4 months of recording and comparing HRV data to my overall feeling I did not find direct relationship between HRV scores and athletic performances. It addition HRV score does not reflect mental or emotional state, neither it was promised by developers it would.

I am sure there are people who found this tool useful and will disagree with me. However everyone is different and what works for one, does not work for another. $10 for this particular app will not break your budget and I encourage you to give it a shot and see if you benefit from it.
I am opened for discussion on the topic and I might change my mind, but for now I will stop measuring my morning HRV using the app for the reasons I stated above.
Instead I will work to recognize the signs my body tell me, when something’s not quite right. I will also listen more to my emotional state to access my condition and predict the readiness to perform on a given day.

Stay STRONG!


References:

  1. Soligard, T., Martin Schwellnus, J. A., Bahr, R., Clarsen, B., Dijkstra, P., Gabbett, T., . . . Engebretsen, L. (2016, September 01). How much is too much? (Part 1) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of injury. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/17/1030
  2. Schwellnus M, Soligard T, Alonso J, et al(2016, September 01). How much is too much? (Part 2) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of illness. Br J Sports Med 2016;50:1043-1052. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/17/1043
  3. Simon Wegerif
  4. What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)? And how it can enhance your training. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.myithlete.com/what-is-hrv/