When training or racing in hot weather and humidity, our performance level and endurance can be highly affected by dehydration and lack of fuel. Some runners forget to focus on proper hydration and fuelling during runs longer than 60-90mins. Depending on the heat and humidity, running longer than 60 mins or even when performing some speedwork training session, hydration and fuelling is very important to keep the energy levels up and look after our body. Hydration is not only about plain water; many runners think that drinking plain water during a longer run is still sufficient. When sweating, our body gets depleted of many minerals, electrolytes and vitamins. Fuel and hydration helps the body’s performance during exercise and running.
Hydration: Equals the fluid levels in the body. Our body is mostly water, which supports our entire system and keeps us alive. Also, the fluid part of the blood that circulates to deliver oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products from our body is mostly water. Imagine what can happen to our body if we run in high heat and humidity for more than 60-90 mins with no or very little hydration and fuelling; our body gets depleted of the main vitamins and minerals and our oxygen blood flow slows down, our energy level goes way down, our muscles start to ache, and during a long run our body will go into shock. To make sure we add electrolytes to our hydration during training will maintain our energy levels, and keep our performance level up. For runs longer than 60 mins but under 90 mins only water can be enough to hydrate if the heat or humidity and training intensity is not too high. For runs longer than 90 mins, make sure you drink water with electrolytes or sports drinks, an average of 200ml every 15-20 mins. For runs longer than 2 hours, 200-300ml every 10-20 mins is essential.
Fuel: Most of our energy needed for regular daily activities or light exercise comes from fat. Fat is the most efficient energy source because it provides more energy per gram than carbohydrates or proteins and has no negative by-products like some high carbs might have. Our body can store up to 90 mins or 2000 calories of healthy carbs source of energy, before our body starts to get depleted and crash. If we run or exercise at higher intensity levels, we lose energy faster, using up our carb fuel tank. Our muscles use carbohydrates at a greater rate since it’s faster acting fuel source than fat. Protein is also a fuel source, but it is mainly used by our body during long distance running or long exercise training sessions. One of the main negative side effects of our body not getting proper hydration or fuelling with carbohydrates, is that if our body goes through high rates of breakdown from low carbs storage or fuelling, the result will be high lactic acid build up. Side effects of high levels of lactic acid; exhaustion, extreme fatigue, muscle cramp and pain, weakness, abdominal pain, decrease in appetite, headache. Not fuelling our body can also affect our brain functionality. Our brain needs some glucose (carbohydrates) to feel happy. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is also a great source of carbs and natural sugar. To consume 30-60 grams of carbs/hour when training for more than 90 mins will maintain your energy levels and performance level.
We have to remember that if our body gets dehydrated, everything from muscle contraction to body temperature maintenance stops working properly and can impact our exercise and running performance. Drinking cold drinks or cooling down our head, neck and core with some ice can also make a huge difference in our energy levels and fatigue.
Fresh fruits high in electrolytes:
Strawberries: High in vitamin C, but also contains potassium.
Cherries: Tart cherries are a superfood for runners. Tart cherries are a great source of essential nutrients and electrolytes, and are efficient in reducing your muscle pain, inflammation and improve recovery. Cherries contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.
Bananas: Runners love bananas, they are a great source of potassium and some magnesium, and good carbohydrates.
Mangoes: Tropical fruits like mangoes and also pineapples and apricots are very high in vitamin C, antioxidants and electrolytes like potassium and magnesium.
Watermelons: Not only does watermelon contain 92% water, but also potassium, antioxidants like vitamin A and C.
Hydrate, Fuel and Run Far!