Monitoring Hydration Status
Starting a workout well hydrated is essential: no IF's AND's or BUT's here!! Monitoring hydration status is key to ensure you're keeping up with hydration needs both daily and during prolonged workouts. Pre- and post-workout weights can give an athlete solid data to work with in regards how well hydrated you are pre-workout, how much fluid was lost during a particular workout, and how much is needed to drink to effectively rehydrate and establish a state of euhydration (normal body water) for the next one.
Two weekends ago I had back to back longer workouts: ride on Saturday, hard run on Sunday. In doing my typical pre-post workout weighing, I noted that I had lost about 3.5 lbs, or 2.7% of my body weight in fluid during my Saturday ride. The next morning I weighed myself and was still 2 lbs below my normal body weight. As a result, I postponed my run a little later and focused on getting fluids in me first. I sweat A LOT while running and knew to start that workout in a dehydrated state would be have detrimental in my ability to complete the run, nonetheless run hard (I proceeded to lose another 3.5 lbs during the run later that afternoon).
I'm not big on daily weighing, but do try to take advantage of the use of the scale around my longer workouts. In doing so, I am provided with specific data to ME to draw upon in knowing how well I did (or did not do) in keeping up with hydration during my workout, and in knowing how much I need to drink to properly rehydrate post-workout. The general rule of thumb is to consume 16 - 24 oz of fluid per 1-lb weight (fluid) loss, so in my case I knew I needed to consume at least 48 - 72 oz fluid to properly rehydrate. Consuming sports drinks post-workout is helpful not only in stimulating thirst, but also replenishing glycogen stores and helping your body retain the fluids consumed.
Another, often more simple way of monitoring hydration status is simply keeping an eye on your urine color and frequency. Ideally you want urine to be clear to pale yellow in color (like lemonade!) versus dark yellow or reddish brown (like apple juice).
Being "in the clear" is not specifically necessary as consistently having clear urine can be a sign of over-hydration (putting athletes at risk for diluting blood sodium and electrolyte levels). While I don't know with 100% certainty, I do believe I may have pushed myself into a mild state of hyponatremia (diluted blood sodium levels) earlier this summer by over-hydrating between workouts with too much plain water. I was thirsty and knew my Sunday long run was going to be a hot one. My urine had been consistently clear for over 24 hrs yet I consumed little sodium to go with the fluids I had been drinking. The meltdown I experienced during that run despite pacing appropriately and drinking throughout was NOT a good one. That said, more fluid is not always better! I personally don't keep track of my fluid intake outside of major workouts, but I do aim to keep tabs on urine color, adjust intake accordingly and include extra sodium/electrolytes in some shape or form when I am pushing fluids.
Keep Your Cool !!
During my long ride this past Friday, I returned to my car after about 55 miles to refill my water bottles and was greeted by two cyclists enjoying the shade of the tree I was parked next too. I had to laugh as I rode away, because as they were asking me about my riding plans I carried on with my normal business of stuffing ice down my top. Was I embarrassed? Not really. It was HOT and the ice felt amazing and there's no shame in taking care of your body :D I've thankfully picked up on my husband's habits in keeping cool during long summer runs, including his ALL FREAKING DAY run Saturday in the blazing hot temps. Fluids are most effectively used both inside and outside in keeping core body temperature down. Check your "gauges" frequently and don't wait until your feeling overheated to take action. Be proactive, not reactive!
^Left: During our Grand Canyon run in May, we took advantage of pretty much ANY opportunity to take a dip in the cool creeks that flowed through the canyon, soaking our buffs and caps as we did so. At the last stream crossing I was fully sprawled out and ready to take a nap :) Right: Friend Trevor finding comfort in a creek crossing during a 35 mile mountain run last month.
The body has multiple "cooling spots" where blood vessels run close to the surface of the skin, meaning you can most effectively bring down your body temperature by getting these areas in contact with cool water or ice when available. Our body’s cooling spots are the neck and wrists, the insides of our elbows and knees, the tops of our feet and insides of our ankles. Wearing a 'buff around my neck during our Grand Canyon run did not feel the most glamorous, but dipping it in the chilly creeks and wearing it there sure did the trick in keeping me cool as the temperature on the canyon floor kept rising. And how does this relate to fueling?? A cooler core body temperature means more effective digestion of calories consumed, which in turn aids in improved overall energy availability and decreased risk of GI issues #winning
Of course, there's no greater example of the role of hydration and keeping the body cool as witnessing athletes navigate the marathon in the Kona World Championship. The video below last year's WC is a bit long (10 minutes) but does a stellar job in discussing the role of hydration, electrolytes and keeping the core body temperature cool in reaching the finish line in good shape even when race day conditions are relentlessly hot.
This weekend I'm heading up to Culpeper, VA for the Culpeper Gran Fondo 100 on Saturday, followed by the Culpeper International Triathlon on Sunday. It is promising once again to be a hot weekend and I know without a doubt putting these principles to work will be key both in my enjoyment of the weekend and my success in what will be a challenging back-to-back workout combo.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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