Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Improving Performance - Proper Hydration

This is the second article in a series on improving your long-distance running. I hope you find this information useful in your training and racing.

How Your Cooling System Works
When we exercise, we burn molecular fuel, mostly glycogen, but also some protein, fat, and blood glucose from ingested nutrients. The breakdown of these energy providers releases heat that builds up and raises our core temperature. The body must rid it itself of this heat and maintain a core temperature within a few degrees of the well-known 98.6 degrees F (37 degrees C). An active person needs a reliable cooling mechanism. Actually, you have several. You lose some heat through your skin. Blood diverts to the capillaries near the skin’s surface, removing heat from the body core. You breathe harder to get more oxygen, expelling heat when you exhale. But by far the most important part of the cooling system, accounting on average for about 75% of all cooling, is your ability to produce and excrete sweat. Sweat, however, glistening on your forearm or soaking your singlet won’t cool you; it must evaporate. Sweat works on a basic physical premise: water evaporation is an endothermic process, requiring energy (heat) to change from liquid to gas. Thus, water molecules in the gas hase have more energy than water molecules in the liquid phase. As water molecules evaporate from your skin, they remove heat energy; the remaining water molecules have less energy, and thus, you feel cooler.

Weather conditions greatly affect sweat production and cooling effectiveness. In cool weather, you get substantial cooling from the heat that escapes directly from your skin. As the temperature increases, you gradually rely more on evaporation. On hot days, with little difference between skin surface and ambient temperatures, your skin surface provides only negligible convective cooling, and you need to sweat more to maintain a safe internal core temperature. At 95ºF or above, you lose no heat at all from your skin; you actually start to absorb heat. Evaporative cooling must do all the work.

Humidity is the other major factor that affects sweat. On humid days, sweat evaporates more slowly because the atmosphere is already saturated with water vapor, retarding the evaporation rate. The sweat accumulates on your skin and soaks your clothes, but you don’t get any cooling from it because it’s not going into the vapor phase. Soaking, dripping sweat may give you a psychological boost, but it has no physical efficacy to cool; sweat must evaporate to remove heat. On days when it’s both hot and humid, well, you don’t need to read about what’s going to happen when you exercise in those conditions. You do need to know that under the worst of conditions you can produce up to three liters of sweat in an hour of strenuous exercise, but your body can only absorb about one liter from fluid consumption. Yes, this will cause problems before long, and we will discuss that issue below.

What Happens When the Coolant Runs Low?
Just like a car, your body must dissipate the excess heat generated from burning fuel. Unlike a car, your body’s coolant isn’t in a sealed internal system; you use it once and then it’s gone and needs to be replaced. But we don’t come with built-in gauges or indicators that tell us just how much coolant we have left in our system. We can’t run a dipstick down our gullet and get a eading that says, “Add a quart.” We do have some physiological signs, but they function at the Warning-Danger! level, too late to maintain optimal performance. For instance, by the time you feel thirsty, you could have a 2% body-weight water loss, already into the impairment zone.

The chart below shows what happens to human performance at each percent of weight loss. Weight loss means the percentage of your body weight at the start of exercise that you have lost via sweat. If you go out for a run at 160 pounds and weigh in 20 miles later at 154, you’ve lost almost 4% of your body weight. That’s too much to maintain your pace to the end, let alone expect to kick.

How Much is That?
As you can see from the chart, sweat loss can easily devolve from an athletic performance issue to an acute medical issue. Clearly, we need to have some quantifiable idea of our intake and output. Let’s start with converting the data on the chart to recognizable amounts. Perhaps you remember the saying, “a pint’s a pound, the world ‘round.” Now that’s a convenient conversion for endurance athletes. Here’s another: one pint = one water bottle. Some bottles hold 20 ounces, but consider a regular water bottle as a pint. Two pints make a quart, which is almost a liter. So when you read “liter,” think two water bottles. Losing one pound of weight means a one-pint loss. One liter (or one quart) is about two pounds.

0% none, optimal performance, normal heat regulation
1% thirst stimulated, heat regulation during exercise altered, performance declines
2% further decrease in heat regulation, hinders performance, increased thirst
3% more of the same(worsening performance)
4% exercise performance cut by 20 - 30%
5% headache, irritability, “spaced-out” feeling, fatigue
6% weakness, severe loss of thermoregulation
7% collapse likely unless exercise stops
10% comatose
11% death likely

Can You Drink Enough?
Needless to say, maintaining optimal fluid intake prior to and during exercise is crucial for both performance and health. However, as is true with calories and electrolytes, you can’t replenish them at the same rate you deplete them; your body simply won’t absorb as fast as it loses. vaporative cooling depletes fluids and electrolytes faster than the body can replenish them. Your body will accept and utilize a certain amount from exogenous (outside) sources, and, similar to calories and electrolytes, maintaining fluid intake within a specific range will postpone fatigue and promote peak performance. Research suggests that while electrolyte needs for individual athletes may vary up to 1000% (tenfold), fluid loss remains fairly constant. Also, we can measure fluid loss more easily than electrolyte loss; we don’t need sophisticated lab equipment, just a scale. Thus, we can come pretty close in calculating fluid loss and replacement.

The Numbers
On average, you lose about one liter (about 34 ounces) of fluid per hour of exercise. Extreme heat and humidity can raise that amount to three liters in one hour. A trained athlete will store enough muscle glycogen to provide energy for approximately 90 minutes of aerobic exercise. As your muscles burn glycogen, water is released as a metabolic by-product and excreted as sweat. Researchers found that during a marathon, runners released an average of two liters of sweat from muscle glycogen stores. This is in addition to sweat from other body liquids. You can control or lessen these sweat rates by acclimatization and training for the event. Acclimatized athletes can reduce electrolyte and fluid loss up to 50%, but note that those losses cannot be fully replaced during the event. According to nutrition expert Bill Misner, Ph.D., “The endurance exercise outcome is to postpone fatigue, not replace all the fuel, fluids, and electrolytes lost during the event. It can’t be done, though many of us have tried.” In other words, our hydration goal is not to replace water pint-for-pint, but to support natural stores by consuming as much as we can adequately process during exercise. At the most, you can absorb about one liter (about 34 fluid ounces) of water per hour, but only under the most extreme heat and humidity. Most of the time you can only absorb about half that amount, even though it won’t fully replace your loss. Repeated intake of one liter (about 34 fluid ounces) per hour will ultimately do you more harm than good.

Can You Drink Too Much?
Ironically, while you can’t drink enough to replace all fluid lost, you can drink too much. Researchers have noted the dangers of excess hydration during events lasting over four hours. Dr. T.D. Noakes collected data for 10 years from some 10,000 runners participating in the Comrades Marathon. This 52.4-mile race, held each June (winter) in South Africa, ranks as one of the world’s premier ultramarathons. Noakes showed that endurance athletes who consumed from 16-24 fluid ounces per hour typically repleted as much fluid as is efficiently possible. He also noted the prevalence of hyponatremia (low blood sodium) during ultra-marathons and triathlons in runners who hydrated excessively. This condition can arise from several different physiological scenarios. For endurance athletes, it usually results from sweat-depleted sodium stores diluted by excess hypotonic (low electrolyte content) fluid intake. When blood sodium concentration becomes too dilute, you can develop severe cardiac symptoms leading to collapse.

Problems With Too Much or Too Little
Moreover, Noakes noted a pattern of hydration problems among race participants. In ultra events, the leaders usually dehydrate, but the mid to back-of-the-pack athletes tend to overhydrate. Both may end up suffering from the same hyponatremic symptoms, the former from too little fluid intake combined with too much sodium loss due to profuse sweating, the latter from too much fluid intake and relatively less sodium loss. Because most front-runners are extremely competitive, they don’t stop long enough during the race to overhydrate. In addition, it’s highly likely that elite athletes may be fitter and better acclimatized to deal with hot weather conditions. A tendency to linger at aid stations attempting to relieve the symptoms of fatigue or heat by drinking too much water is a fault found among the majority of the remainder of athletes, those in the middle or back of the pack. Also, these athletes may be novices who have heard the “drink, drink, drink” mantra, but who haven’t enough experience to personally calibrate their personal needs. After the 1985 Comrades race, 17 runners were hospitalized, nine with dilutional hyponatremia. In the 1987 Comrades Marathon, 24 runners suffered from ilutional hyponatremia. These athletes had seriously overloaded on fluid intake, with the nevitable result of a totally disrupted physiology.

Tragic Consequences
Hyponatremia usually results from drinking too much, especially when one drinks fluids such as plain water or a sports drink lacking the proper electrolyte profile. Training and fitness levels, weather conditions, and, undoubtedly, biological predisposition also contribute to developing this form of hyponatremia known as “water intoxication.” Sadly, we must note that this condition has lead, directly or in part, to the deaths of three young and otherwise healthy runners in recent major American marathons. Improper hydration took away their day of glory and also their lives. They collapsed and went into an irreversible condition involving uncontrollable brain edema, coma, and death. Overhydration represents a very serious problem. Unlike dehydration, which will generally only result in painful cramping, possibly a DNF, or at the worst, IV treatment, overhydration can incite a chain of ultimately fatal physiological consequences.

So How Much, How Often?
The extreme cases cited above happen very rarely. Lesser degrees of impairment occur frequently from excessive fluid intake. We don’t have a chart for overhydration similar to the one for dehydration, giving symptoms for each level of overhydration. Also, you probably don’t carry a scale or have regular access to weigh-ins along your training route. So how do you know when it’s time to drink? You don’t wait until you’re down a quart. A good hydration regimen starts before you even get moving. Noakes believes intake of hypotonic fluids of one liter (33 oz)/hr will likely cause water intoxication and dilutional hyponatremia. He suggests that athletes may do better on 16 oz/hr fluid intake for ultra events performed in hot weather conditions. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Ian Rogers suggests that between 500-750 milliliters/hr (about 17- 25 fluid ounces/hr) will fulfill most athletes’ hydration requirements under most conditions. Other research suggests a similar consumption of 4.5-7.0 fluid ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. Based on the available research, along with the thousands of athletes we have monitored, we have found that 20-25 oz/hr is an appropriate fluid intake for most athletes under most conditions. For lighter weight athletes, or those exercising in cooler temperatures, 16-18 oz/hr may be perfect. Heavier athletes or athletes competing in hotter conditions may consider intakes upwards of 28 oz/hr. We also suggest that to avoid dilutional hyponatremia, fluid intake should not routinely exceed 28 oz/hr. The exceptions are heavier athletes, athletes exercising at extreme levels (prolonged periods at a high percentage of VO2Max), and athletes competing in severe environmental conditions. 20-25 ounces is the equivalent of the typical regular to large water bottle and that’s an excellent gauge to work within.

Remember Your Electrolytes and Calories!
We noted at the beginning that besides cooling, water also plays an important role in nutrient transport. Water consumption bears directly on electrolyte and caloric uptake. You must consider the electrolyte content of your fluid intake, especially if you exceed about 24 oz/hr. If temperature and humidity rise above 70 degrees F and/or 70% humidity, we recommend that you take electrolytes before and during every hour of exercise. In addition, avoid fructose or ther simple sugar drinks and gels, especially during the heat-unless you want to deal with a gastric emptying problem, which may result in nausea and other stomach maladies. Compared to complex carbohydrates, drinks or gels that contain simple sugars (typically glucose, fructose, and sucrose) require more fluid and electrolytes for effective absorption. Because they require more fluid, you get fewer calories per unit of water. You must restrict simple sugar drinks to a 6-8% solution range, which provides inadequate amounts of calories for energy production. You can make a nice drink in a water bottle that will absorb well and provide adequate fluid, but your caloric intake will fall far short of your body’s needs,and your energy level will suffer. If you make a double or triple-strength batch of a simple sugar drink hoping to obtain adequate amounts of calories, you’ll require additional fluids and electrolytes to efficiently process the sugar. You will need to guess how much extra water and electrolytes your body needs to handle the sugar. If you guess low, your GI tract will take water and electrolytes from other areas. This scenario can result in nauseating results as your body literally dehydrates its working muscles while bloating your belly. Why take chances like that when your performance is on the line? Your wisest choice is to use fuel comprised of complex carbohydrates. Even at a 15-18% oncentration, these fuel sources absorb and digest rapidly, do not require excess fluid for ransport through the GI system, and provide all the calories your liver can process.

Increase Water Storage Capacity for Competition in Extreme Heat
Another wise strategy is pre-event superhydration using a glycerol supplement. You’ll want to use this method before a long strenuous event held in very hot or humid conditions. You can increase your water storage capacity by taking a loading dose of a glycerol solutionfor three days prior to an endurance effort. During this loading phase, you will gain some weight in stored water. It’s like having an extra water bottle or two on board. You’ll use this extra water first, and extend the time you can exercise in the heat before dehydration.

Other Ways to Cool Yourself in Extreme Heat
Although not directly related to actual water consumption, an external water application can help cool you. A cold, wet towel, sponge, hose, or sprayer on the head and torso can effectively lower body temperature, especially during a one-minute break. If you’re running, take a one-minute walk, douse yourself with water, and take a good drink. The break from heavy exertion allows dissipation of internal heat. Combined with hydration and external water, this can effectively relieve heat stress, allowing you to finish hot weather endurance events. Highly competitive athletes might scoff at walking, but when it comes to core temperature, nature gives you two choices: cool down or DNF.

Fluid Intake Suggestions Apart From The Workout Or Race
Now that you have a good guide for your fluid intake during exercise, we can turn to two other considerations: how much you should drink overall during the day, and how you should hydrate just prior to racing or exercise. For your regular daily hydration needs (that is, in addition to your exercise-induced needs), no research has conclusively arrived at an RDA for fluids, but about 0.5-0.6 fluid ounces per pound of body weight makes a more accurate standard than the “eight glasses a day” commonly recommended for everyone. Multiplying your body weight by .5 to .6 will give you the figure, in fluid ounces, that you should aim for daily. For satisfying hydration requirements prior to a race there are several recommendations: 80-100 ounces of water during the four hours prior to the start of the race, ceasing consumption about 20 minutes prior to allow the stomach to empty. 500 ml (about 17 ounces) of fluid about two hours before exercise. One liter of fluid (about 34 ounces) in the two hours prior to the start of the race about 17 ounces per hour), ceasing consumption about 20 minutes prior to the start. Each of these recommendations has at least some research backing. You need to determine what works best for your system and the particular logistics of the race or training session ahead.

Personalized Data is the Key to Hydration Efficiency
Each athlete is personally responsible to include hydration, fueling, and electrolyte replacement regimens into his or her training program. You must find out in practice before competition what works for you. Most of you will find your final figures will come very close to our suggested starting points. For others, you might find that in certain instances your needs in a particular event will require substantial modification. If you’ve spent money on a heart-rate monitor, a multi-function watch, or a body-fat measuring device, and if you use those tools properly, you already have some serious training tools. We suggest that a good scale (preferably one that can measure less than one pound increments, such as a balance scale) may well prove to be your most valuable fitness investment. Weigh yourself before and after each outing, carefully noting the time, exertion level, miles, weather, and fluid, fuel, and electrolyte consumption. Another low-tech hint: make sure you know the capacity of your water bottles and hydration packs. Once you begin to log your fluid consumption and weight fluctuations, you’ll have the data to accurately calculate your personal needs in this absolutely vital area.

A Final Checklist & Some Quick Tips
1.) If you finish an event weighing the same or more than when you started, you have overhydrated. If you’ve dropped more 3% or more, dehydration has occurred. Up to 2% weight loss is safe and reasonable.
2.) For very long events, the average runner will also lose a pound or more in energy stores (glycogen, fat, and muscle tissue) in addition to the water, so figure that in your weight difference.
3.) Don’t assume that you can drink unlimited amounts of water or fluid during exercise and expect that all of it will be absorbed and the excess will be lost in sweat or through the kidneys. You will instead bloat, dilute your blood, and develop water intoxication.
4.) Train to get fit in the heat. Heat acclimatization and fitness reduce fluid and electrolyte losses by up to 50%. When heat acclimatizing, ignore the clothing advice below.
5.) Wear the lightest, most evaporation friendlyclothing you can afford. Cotton isn’t on the list. Many fibers today provide superior wicking and evaporation that allow your sweat to do the work nature intended.
6.) In general, keep fluid intake between 20-25 oz/hr. For lighter weight athletes, or those exercising in cooler temperatures, 16-18 oz/hr may be perfect. Heavier athletes or athletes competing in hotter conditions may consider intakes upwards of 28 oz/hr. If you feel you need more fluids, experiment with it in training, keeping in mind that you will require additional electrolytes. Regular fluid intake over 30 oz/hr increases the possibility of dilutional hyponatremia.
7.) Use cold fluids as much as possible as your body absorbs them more rapidly than warm
fluids. Know where to find cold water along your training routes. Use frozen and insulated water bottles and hydration packs.
8.) Urine color can indicate hydration level. Dark yellow urine means low hydration. Pale to light yellow is good. Don’t confuse the bright yellow urine you get after vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) supplementation for the dark yellow urine that indicates overly concentrated urine.
9.) During exercise, avoid foods and fuels that contain low chain carbohydrates. These simple sugar fuels require more fluids and electrolytes for digestive purposes. Also avoid carbonated drinks, as the gas inhibits absorption.
10.) Consider using a glycerol-based product in a loading dose format prior to racing in the heat. The use of glycerol will maximize our fluid storage, which can be of great benefit during hot
weather racing. Follow the specific instructions that come with the product.
11.) Use caffeine with caution. Used properly and sparingly, caffeine has ergogenic benefits. It does, however, act as a diuretic, which may deplete fluid stores more rapidly.
12.) During the hottest weather conditions, sponging yourself off with cold water, while taking a short periodic break from race pace, will provide heat relief.
13.) Know the symptoms of overhydration and dehydration. Stop immediately if you feel lightheaded or queasy or get the dry chills.

No race or training is worth compromising your health. Dehydration and/or over hydration is a common problem that plagues far too many athletes, some with severe consequences. Armed with the guidelines contained in this article, along with practice and testing in training, your performance and health need not suffer. Instead, you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of athletes who continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Source: The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Sucess by Steve Born

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Good News - Bad News

It was a mixed week of running for me. My runs were both encouraging and disappointing. First the good news. I did my longest run since attempting a come back from long-standing multiple medical issues. I covered 8.5 miles yesterday under bright blue skies and cool temperatures. It was one of those rare days when you feel like you could run forever. I thought the better of it though, and stopped after 80 minutes, 10 minutes more than my previous longest run. I was pain free from the plantar fasciitis I have in both feet and didn’t want to push my luck by running too long. Now for the bad news. I had to run on the synthetic track at my local Jr. High School. About two weeks ago I did a 4 mile run on the roads and my feet were in pain for 5 days. Although my plantar fasciitis symptoms have improved from ultrasound and low-light laser treatments, I still have pain when running on pavement. I know what you are thinking;” I wouldn’t run that far on a track for a million dollars”. Well, maybe for a million, but you get my point. As bad as it sounds, I would rather do that, than not run at all.

More good news. I did a 5 mile trail run at
Breakheart Reservation early in the week. Again another perfect day for running, sunny and cool with light winds. The trails have really dried out since my run here last month. Brown is fading to green as the trees are budding and the perennials are pushing up through the ground and autumn leaves. After several years of running here I thought I knew the trail system pretty well. To my surprise I discovered a new section of single-track running along the Saugus River and the Cedar Glen Golf Course. The trail has a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns and is covered with pine needles. It doesn’t get much better than that. Now for more bad news. This is the 3rd time I have run trails since developing neck pain and facial numbness from my cervical stenonis
. I can keep the symptoms to a manageable level when I stay on the track but they flare up considerably when I run trails. I’m not sure if it’s caused by looking down at the trail or from the additional impact on the skeletal system when running downhill. Whatever the reason, I have been in pain for the past 5 days since doing the trail run. Very discouraging but it is what it is. I’ll just have to be content running in circles. Or should I say ovals!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Long Green Line

The Long Green Line is an inspiring documentary of Coach Joe Newton and the York Community High School Cross Country Team. Coach Joe Newton has used the sport of Cross Country Running to teach simple but important lessons to high school boys for the last 50 years. “Always do your best”, “be on time” and “it’s nice to be great but far greater to be nice” are mantras, which have turned the Boys Cross Country team at the public York High School in Elmhurst Illinois into the most winning high school team in any sport in America. Along with mastery of their sport, Newton turns boys into men, who carry his teaching and his love for each of them throughout their lives.
The Long Green Line documents the York Duke’s 2005 Cross Country season as the runners seek their record 25th state title in 50 years. In the sport of Cross Country only the top 5 athletes per team score points and only seven are included in competition. The York team has 221 athletes participating under the tutelage of Coach Newton. Though 214 boys know they will have no influence on the season’s scores, they are moved to participate just to be in the presence of Coach Newton.
Such a large team is a blessing and curse. Newton is able to spread his influence further but life lessons can go unheard when they have to trickle to so many ears. In the middle of the season, two of the star athletes are expelled from school after committing over $1 million in arson damage. The York team is forced to rebuild -- to face a true test of what they have learned both physically and mentally.
The team is colorfully decorated with characters like the All-American winners the Dettman Twins, Sophomore John Fisher, a high functioning autistic with a heart of gold, out of shape former football players who reside on the lowest rung of the team and Freshman Connor Chadwick who has cerebral palsy but is able to run without leg braces for the first time in his life.
The Long Green Line is not only a team but also, a rite of passage. It is a lifeline for these young runners as they move from adolescence to manhood.

Watch a preview of the movie here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Product Review - Merrell Overdrive Trail Shoes

I want to give you an update on the Merrell Overdrive trail shoes I have been training in for the past two months. A long-term injury has prevented me from logging the amount of miles I wanted to in the shoes but I have run in them long enough to make an evaluation of their performance. First, here is what I like about them. They are light for a trail shoe but still offer good protection from sharp rocks, roots, etc. The shoes also have very good cushioning and can be worn on small stretches of pavement without any problem. The Vibram sole provides excellent traction in mud and over loose rocks. The Merrills drain quickly after water crossings. On the negative side, the toe box is too small. It is neither high enough nor wide enough. I have already started to develop black toenails on both feet due to lack of space. Buying a half size up, or even a full size may eliminate the problem. The shoe has a large mesh that makes it light and drain quickly but also allows trail debris find its way into the shoe rather easily. This can contribute to hot spots and blisters on longer runs. Overall, I am happy with the shoe but would definitely size up if I get another pair.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Improving Performance - Commom Mistakes

Today we will start a series of articles to help you improve your race performances and to recovery more quickly from races and hard workouts. The series will cover topics such as proper hydration, electrolyte replenishment, proper caloric intake and recovery to name a few. In the first installment we will focus on mistakes made by endurance athletes. The list is not meant to be all-inclusive but will focus on the most common errors. Let’s begin.

Excess Hydration

Optimal nutritional support for endurance athletics means consuming the right amount of the right nutrients at the right time. You can neither overload nor undersupply your body without compromising athletic performance and incurring detrimental results. The principle of avoiding both too much and too little especially applies to hydration, where serious consequences occur from either mistake. If you don't drink enough you'll suffer from unpleasant and performance-ruining dehydration. Drink too much however, and you'll not only end up with impaired athletic performance, you may even be flirting with potentially life-threatening water intoxication. Researchers studied the effects of thousands of endurance athletes and noted that the front-runners typically tend to dehydrate, while over-hydration occurs most often among middle to back-of-the-pack athletes. Both conditions lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium), but through different processes. Excess water consumption causes what is known as "dilutional hyponatremia," or an overly diluted level of sodium and electrolytes in the blood. This is as bad as under-hydrating in regards to increased potential for muscular cramping but has the added disadvantages of stomach discomfort, bloating, and extra urine output. And, as mentioned earlier, in some unfortunate circumstances, excess hydration can leads to severe physiological circumstances, including death. Unfortunately, endurance athletes too often adopt the "if a little is good, a lot is better" approach. This can lead to significant problems when you're trying to meet your hydration requirements. All it takes in one poor performance or DNF due to cramping and you start thinking, "Hmm, maybe I didn't drink enough." Next thing you know, you're drinking so much water and fluids that your thirst is quenched but your belly is sloshing and you're still cramping. Remember, you can neither undersupply nor oversupply your body with fluids, so consume appropriate amounts. How much should one drink? One expert suggest that between 500-750 milliliters/hr (about 17-25 fluid ounces/hr) will fulfill most athletes' hydration requirements under most conditions. All athletes would benefit from what Dr. Ian Rogers says: "Like most things in life, balance is the key and the balance is likely to be at a fluid intake not much above 500 milliliters (about 17 ounces) per hour in most situations, unless predicted losses are very substantial." [Fluid and Electrolyte Balance and Endurance Exercise: What can we learn from recent research? by Ian Rogers @:] Recommendation: Most athletes do very well under most conditions with a fluid intake of 20-25 ounces per hour. Sometimes you may not need that much fluid (15-16 ounces per hour may be quite acceptable) sometimes you might need somewhat more, perhaps up to 28 ounces. However, the risk of dilutional hyponatremia increases substantially when an athlete repeatedly consumes more than 30 fluid ounces per hour. If more fluid intake is found to be necessary (under very hot conditions, for example) proceed cautiously and remember to increase electrolyte intake as well to match your increased fluid intake. You can easily accomplish this by consuming a few additional electrolyte capsules.

Simple Sugar ConsumptionFructose, sucrose, glucose and other simple sugars (mono- and disaccharides) are poor carbohydrate sources for fueling your body during exercise. Also, for optimal general health, you should restrict your intake of these simple sugars. For endurance athletes, the primary problem with fuels containing simple sugars is that they must be mixed in weak 6-8% solutions in order to match body fluid osmolality and thus be digested with any efficiency. Unfortunately, solutions mixed and consumed at this concentration only provide about 100 calories per hour, totally inadequate for maintaining energy production on an hourly basis. Using a 6-8% solution to obtain adequate calories means your fluid intake becomes so high to cause discomfort, bloating, and possibly oversupplying your body to the point of fluid intoxication. You can't make a "double or triple strength" mixture from a simple sugar-based carbohydrate fuel in the hopes of obtaining adequate calories because the concentration of that mixture, now far beyond the 6-8% mark, will remain in your stomach until sufficiently diluted, which may cause substantial stomach distress. You can drink more fluids in the hopes of "self diluting" the overly concentrated mixture, but remember that you'll increase the risk of over-hydration. However, if you don't dilute with more water and electrolytes, your body will recruit these from other areas that critically need them and divert them to the digestive system to deal with the concentrated simple sugar mix. This can result in a variety of stomach-related distresses, not to mention increased cramping potential. Simply put, simple sugar-based drinks or gels have to be mixed and consumed at very dilute calorically weak concentrations in order to be digested with any efficiency. A simple sugar-based product used at a properly mixed concentration cannot provide adequate calories to sustain energy production. Any way you look at it, fuels containing simple sugars are an inefficient, inappropriate way to fuel your body during prolonged exercise. Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) are the wisest choice for endurance athletes, as they allow your digestive system to rapidly and efficiently process a greater volume of calories, providing steady energy. Unlike simple sugars, which match body fluid osmolality at 6-8% solutions, complex carbohydrates match body fluid osmolality at substantially more concentrated 15-18% solutions. Even at this seemingly high concentration, complex carbohydrates (such as maltodextrins and glucose polymers) will empty the stomach at the same efficient rate as normal body fluids and provide up to three times more energy than simple sugar mixtures, which means you can fulfill your caloric requirements without running the risk of over-hydration or a variety of stomach related maladies. Recommendation: To get the proper amount of easily digested calories, rely on fuels that use complex carbohydrates (maltodextrins or glucose polymers) only, with no added simple sugar as their carbohydrate source.

Improper Amounts of CaloriesToo many endurance athletes fuel their bodies under the premise, "If I burn 500-800 calories an hour, I must consume that much or I'll bonk." However, as Dr. Bill Misner says, "To suggest that fluids, sodium, and fuels-induced glycogen replenishment can happen at the same rate as it is spent during exercise is simply not true. Endurance exercise beyond 1-2 hours is a deficit spending entity, with proportionate return or replenishment always in arrears. The endurance exercise outcome is to postpone fatigue, not to replace all the fuel, fluids, and electrolytes lost during the event. It can't be done, though many of us have tried." In other words, your body can't replenish calories as fast at it expends them (ditto for fluids and electrolytes). Athletes who try to replace "calories out" with an equal amount of "calories in" usually suffer digestive maladies, with the inevitable poorer-than-expected outcome, and possibly the dreaded DNF ("Did Not Finish"). Body fat and glycogen stores easily fill the gap between energy output and fuel intake, so it's detrimental overkill to attempt calorie-for-calorie replacement. Keep this in mind if you're doing ultra-endurance events, especially if you've had to "alter the game plan" and are unable to stick to your planned hourly calorie intake. For example, let's say you've been consuming an average of 280 calories an hour but the heat or other circumstances (such as climbing a very long hill) prevents you from maintaining that desired hourly average. DO NOT try to "make up lost ground" by consuming additional calories; it's not only unnecessary, it may very well cause a lot of stomach distress, which will hurt your performance. Remember, during periods where fuel consumption may be less than your original hourly plan, body fat stores will effectively fill in the gap, thus eliminating the need to overcompensate with calories. Recommendation: Intake of 240-280 calories per hour, on average, is sufficient for most endurance athletes. Lighter weight athletes, less than 120-125 pounds may need slightly less and heavier athletes, more than 185-190 pounds may need slightly more. Experiment in training to determine your specific requirements, using 240-280 calories/hour as a base to work from. If you fall behind on your average calorie intake, do not consume excess calories to bring your average back up.

Inconsistent Electrolyte Supplementation
Consuming sufficient calories and fluids during workouts and races is an obvious necessity. Consistent electrolyte supply is equally important. Just as your car's engine requires sufficient oil to keep its many parts running smoothly, your body requires electrolyte minerals to maintain smooth performance of vital functions such as muscle contraction. Athletes who neglect this important component will impair their performance, and may incur painful and debilitating cramping and spasms, a sure way to ruin a workout or race. However, this doesn't mean that athletes should indiscriminately ingest copious amounts of one or more electrolytes (sodium or salt is usually the most misused). Supplementing with only one electrolyte or consuming too much of one or more electrolytic minerals overrides the complex and precise mechanisms that regulate proper electrolyte balance. The solution is to provide the body with a balanced blend of these important minerals and in a dose that cooperates with and enhances body mechanisms. Salt tablets alone cannot sufficiently satisfy electrolyte requirements and excess salt will cause more problems than it resolves. Remember also that electrolyte replenishment is important even when it's not hot outside. Sure, you may not need as much as you would in hotter weather, but your body still needs consistent replenishment of these minerals to maintain the optimal performance of many important bodily functions. You don't wait until you dehydrate before you drink fluids, or until you bonk before you put some calories back in your body do you? Of course not. You fulfill those fueling requirements before the consequences of inadequate replenishment strike. The same logic applies to electrolyte replenishment. Going back to the engine/oil analogy, you don't wait until the engine seizes before refilling the oil reservoir and the same is true for electrolytes, the body's "motor oil," in that you don't want to wait until you start cramping before you replenish these important minerals. Recommendation: Electrolytes in either capsule or powder form, is an inexpensive and easy way to consume your necessary electrolytes. Use elerolytes consistently during workouts and races to fulfill this crucial fueling need.

No Protein Intake During Prolonged Exercise
When exercise extends beyond about two hours, your body begins to utilize some protein to fulfill its energy requirements. This metabolic process, called gluconeogenesis, allows for the synthesis of glucose from protein, helping to satisfy anywhere from 5-15% of your body's energy needs. If you fail to supply your body with protein from your fuel, it has only one other choice: your own muscle! Called "lean muscle tissue catabolism" or "muscle cannibalization," this process devastates performance through muscle deterioration and increased fatigue-causing ammonia accumulation, and also negatively affects the immune system and recovery. Carbohydrates are still the primary component of your fuel, but it should include a small amount of protein when training sessions or races last longer than two to three hours. Soy protein's amino acid profile is ideal for use during exercise. For instance, compared to whey protein (which is ideal for recovery), soy protein has higher levels of phenylalanine, which may aid in maintaining alertness during ultra-distance races. Soy protein has higher amounts of histidine, which is part of the beta-alanyl l-histidine dipeptide known as carnosine, which has antioxidant/acid buffering benefits. Finally, soy protein has higher levels of aspartic acid, which plays an important role in energy production via the Krebs Cycle. Dr. Bill Misner writes, "Soy's remarkable donation to endurance performance is deserving of our review. Soy has been observed to produce a higher degree of uric acid content than whey proteins. Uric Acid is reduced by excessive free radicals produced during exercise. When uric acid levels are higher, that is an indication of less free radical release due to antioxidant influence of the isoflavones found exclusively in soy. This is one reason why soy may be the preferred dietary protein application during endurance exercise demand." Recommendation: Using a carbohydrate/protein mix as your primary fuel during workouts and races longer than two to three hours will satisfy energy requirements from a precise ratio of complex carbohydrates and soy protein, the latter of which helps protect against excess muscle breakdown. You stay healthier, reduce soreness, and decrease recovery time.

Too Much Solid Food During Exercise
Liquid nutrition is the easiest, most convenient, and most easily digested way to get a calorie and nutrient-dense fuel. Solid food, for the most part, cannot match the precision or nutrient density of the best liquid food fuels. In addition, too much solid food consumption will divert blood from working muscles for the digestive process. This, along with the amount of digestive enzymes, fluids, and time required in breaking down the constituents of solid food can cause bloating, nausea, and/or lethargy. Lastly, a good portion of the calories ingested from solid foods is used up simply to break down and digest them; in essence, these calories are wasted. So while some solid food intake can be a welcome diversion during ultra-endurance efforts, it’s not recommended as your primary fuel source. Inasmuch as exercise diminishes digestive system functioning to begin with, regular solid food intake should be limited (the exception, not the rule) in your fueling strategy because of the increased the likelihood of performance-inhibiting stomach discomforts such as bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, and lethargy. Recommendation: Use gels or sports drinks with complex carbohydrates and soy protein as your primary fuel source during exercise. These provide precise amounts of specific nutrients and are designed for easy digestion, rapid nutrient utilization, and less chance of stomach distress.

Using Something New In A Race Without Having Tested It In Training
The title is pretty self-explanatory; it's one of THE cardinal rules for all athletes, yet you'd be amazed how many break it. Are you guilty as well? Unless you're absolutely desperate and willing to accept the consequences, do not try anything new in competition, be it equipment, fuel, or tactics. These all must be tested and refined in training. Recommendation:. Try all sorts of combinations in training, and keep a log of what works and what doesn't. If you expand your training log to include fuel intake also, you'll have the data you need to prepare a fueling protocol for your next event.

Sticking With Your Game Plan Even When It's Not WorkingEndurance athletes tend to be strong-willed and uncompromising. Most strive to have a "game plan" in place for their training program, which is, of course, an excellent idea. Wise athletes also have a game plan for their supplements and fueling. Having this nutritional game plan that you've honed during training is a big step toward success on race day, but don't slavishly adhere to it during the race if it's not working. What does fine in terms of fueling-your hourly intake of fluids, calories, and electrolytes-during training at a slower pace and lower overall energy output might fail during competition. Athletes who stubbornly maintain the same fuel intake hour after hour, even when it's clearly not working, end up with poorer results, if they finish at all. Yes, it's important to maintain consistent caloric intake during a workout or race, but if the weather gets hot, the body's ability to process fuel becomes compromised. It's important to recognize this and to listen to your body. Continuing to force down "X" amount of calories an hour (the original "game plan"), especially under extreme conditions when your body cannot properly assimilate them, puts a burden on your stomach and can cause any number of stomach-related maladies, which will certainly hinder or ruin performance. During the heat, it becomes more important to stay hydrated and maintain adequate electrolyte levels, so be willing to cut back on calorie consumption. Body fat stores, which satisfy up to two-thirds of energy requirements during exercise, will accommodate energy needs during occasional breaks from regular intervals of fuel consumption. During the heat, fueling is still important, but the focus shifts towards maintaining hydration and proper electrolyte levels. Resume regular caloric intake when you start feeling better and your stomach has had some time to assimilate the fuel it already has. In a similar, but "non-fueling" vein, another time when it's not a wise idea to stick to your original game plan is in training, especially after you've had a poorer-than-expected race. Many athletes think the cure for a poor race is to train harder and longer. Instead of recuperating, many athletes will train themselves into the ground, oftentimes ending up not fitter, but over-trained and with a poorly functioning immune system. A better tactic is to recuperate completely after your race, evaluating what went right and what went wrong during the race, and adapting your training accordingly; training harder and longer isn't necessarily your best option. Remember that recovery is as important a part of your training and the achievement of your athletic goals as the actual training session. Make sure you take your recovery as seriously as your training. Recommendation: It's a good practice to have a game plan that includes a fueling protocol that you have refined during training, but you need to be flexible. Evaluate and adjust accordingly as race pace and weather dictate. Have a game plan, but write it in pencil, not in ink.

Inadequate Post-Workout NutritionPerformance improvement depends on a program of exercise to stimulate muscular and cardiovascular adaptation followed by a recovery period in which the body rebuilds itself slightly more fit than before. Thus, the real gain of exercise occurs during recovery, but only in the presence of adequate rest and nutritional support. Athletes who fail to replenish carbohydrates and protein shortly after workouts will never obtain full value from their efforts. So even though all you may want to do after a hard workout or race is get horizontal and not move for several hours, you must first take care of what might be the most important part of your workout: the replenishment of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrate replenishment as soon as possible upon completion of the workout (ideally within the first 30 minutes) takes advantage of high glycogen synthase activity, imperative to maximizing muscle glycogen, the first fuel the body uses when exercise commences. Protein supplies the amino acids necessary to (a) maximize glycogen storage potential, (b) rebuild and repair muscle tissue, and (c) support optimal immune system function. This is also an ideal time to provide the body with cellular protection support in the form of antioxidants. Because athletes use several times more oxygen than sedentary people, they are more prone to oxidative damage, which not only impairs recovery but is also considered a main cause of degenerative diseases. Consistent supplementation with a full spectrum vitamin/mineral supplement, along with any additional antioxidants, boosts and maintains the immune system and reduces recovery time. The bottom line is that post-workout nutrition is an important component of your training, and properly done, allows you to obtain maximum benefit from your training. Recommendation: Consume 30-90 grams of complex carbohydrates and 10-30 grams of whey protein (a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) immediately after workouts.

Improper Pre-Race Fueling
Far too often, athletes put themselves at a "metabolic disadvantage" during a race by fueling improperly prior to the race. The "The Pre-Race Meal" article discusses this in greater detail, but we mention it here as well because it's definitely one of the biggest fueling errors athletes make. It's also one that is super easy to remedy. Let's look at the two primary factors: 1.) Over-consuming food the night before the race in the hopes of "carbo loading" - It would be nice if you could maximize muscle glycogen stores the night before the race, but human physiology doesn't work that way. Increasing and maximizing muscle glycogen stores takes many weeks of consistent training and post-workout fuel replenishment. Excess consumed carbohydrates are only going to be eliminated or stored as body fats (dead weight). 2.) Eating a pre-race meal at the wrong time - Let's assume you've been really good - you've been training hard (yet wisely) and replenishing your body with adequate amounts of high-quality calories as soon as possible after every workout. As a result, you've now built up a nice 60-90 minute reservoir of premium muscle glycogen, the first fuel your body will use when the race begins. A sure way to deplete those hard-earned glycogen stores too rapidly, which is definitely not going to help your performance, is to eat a meal (or an energy bar or sports drink) an hour or two prior to the start of the race. Recommendations: Don't go overboard with your food consumption the night before the race. First rule: eat clean, which means no refined sugar (skip dessert, or eat fruit), low or no saturated fats, and no alcohol. Second rule: eat until you're satisfied, but not more. If you're going to have a pre-race meal the morning of your race, you need to finish it at least three hours prior to the start of the race. If that's not logistically feasible, have a small amount (100-200 calories) of easily digested complex carbohydrates 5-10 minutes prior to the start. Either of these strategies will top off liver glycogen stores (the goal of the pre-race meal) without screwing up how your body burns its muscle glycogen.

Source: The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success by Steve Born

Friday, April 11, 2008

Merrimack River Trail Race

The 17th Annual Merrimack River 10 mile trail race is the inaugural race in the 2008 Eastern New England Trail race series and the second race in the Western Mass Athletic Club’s Grand Tree Race Series. It is also part of the EXTERRA New England Trail Series. To say the least, this event is very popular and draws close to 200 runners. The course is a 5 mile out and back that runs along the banks of the Merrimack River in Andover, MA. The first and last 3 miles are flat with few obstacles like rock and roots. The middle 4 miles are very hilly. Although there are no major climbs, there are several short steep ones that reduce many runners to a power-hike. With the snowy winter of 2007-2008, and rain forecasted for Friday and Saturday, you can expect a lot of mud and standing water on the course. There should also be several small water crossings from run-off from the hills along the banks of the river.

Click here for course map and elevation profile.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Eastern New England Trail Race Series

The series is inspired by the popular and successful Grand Tree Trail Race Series run by the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club. The Grand Tree series includes races located in the western portion of Massachusetts as well as New York State. Trail runners in the Eastern and Central parts of Massachusetts were looking for a similar challenge that would extend throughout the calendar year but was within easy driving distance. A small number of trail race directors began communicating with each other and with the encouragement and guidance of the directors of the Grand Tree Series contacts were made with many established trail races and a schedule of twenty trail races was compiled for the inaugural running of the Eastern New England Trail Race Series.
Distances range from 3 miles (Trav’s Trail Run) to 17.5 miles (Wapack 17.5M Trail Race). While most races are located in Massachusetts there is one being run in Rhode Island, the Lil’ Rhody Runaround 8M Trail Race. The title of the series leaves room in the future for additional races being added from throughout New England. Scoring for the series will be a calculated percentage of the winner’s time. A yet to be determined number of races to qualify will be an accumulation of series points from each participant’s best finishes of those races. Results of each race as well as the series standings will be posted on the series website and recorded by the North Medford Club. Awards will be presented to several age and gender groups at the conclusion of the series. Applications for each race can be accessed on the series website. Some online registration will be available.

The average trail runner is unique among the running community in that the environment that they run in is as important as the activity itself. The series hopes to provide new venues for our fellow trail runners as well as an opportunity to participate in a structured race format. The first race of the series is the Merrimack River 10 mile trail race to be held this Saturday in Andover, MA at 9 AM.

Race Schedule and Applications.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fells Trail Race Results

Clear skies, cool temperatures and a strong wind greeted runners at the first trail race in Middlesex Fells in nearly ten years. This was a low-key, fun race where runners could choose the number of loops they would complete of the 8 mile course. Twenty-three adventurous runners toed the starting line on this cold Saturday morining but only sixteen completed at least three laps. Hard-core awards go to Ron Farkash of Plainville, MA and Paul Kearney of Burlington, VT. Ron and Paul both ran the full 40 mile distance. Great job guys! Listed below are runners that finished at least 3 loops or 24 miles.

40 Mile Finishers
1 Ron Farkash 39 M 08:07:00.01 Plainville

2 Paul Kearney 27 M 08:52:00.01 Burlington VT
50K Finishers
1 Carol OHear 33 F 05:56:00.01 Brookline

2 Robert Mathes 55 M 06:03:00.01 Wolfeboro NH

3 Chris Shanley 42 M 07:12:00.01 Charlestown

4 Steve Pero 56 M 07:12:00.01 Jaffrey NH

5 Patrick Wheatley 37 M 07:14:00.01 Canada QC

6 Damon Lease 46 M 09:00:00.01 Randolph VT
24 Mile Finishers1 Chris Martin 41 M 04:29:00.01 Needham
2 Scott Ribich 31 M 05:32:00.01 Arlington
3 Lori Lebel 35 F 05:37:00.01 Danvers
4 Randy Wetzel 42 M 05:37:00.01 Danvers
5 Roger Martell 36 M 05:37:00.01 Beverly
6 Cheryl Mulvey 47 F 06:03:00.01 Boxford
7 John Mathews 55 M 06:11:00.01 Topsfield
8 Edward Mulvey 48 M 06:22:00.01 Boxford

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