Nailing Your Nutrition & Hydration Strategies

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Nailing Nutrition 

Below, we expand on fueling your workouts and take a deep dive into the fundamentals of nutrition and hydration. By the end of this article, you will have a much stronger insight into the benefits of fueling and hydrating your body. When we discuss our caloric needs for nutrition it is critical to understand how to make effective food choices. In order to nail your nutrition, you should predominately focus on the food choices below. Further, please realize, if you fail to fuel properly the whole approach collapses. 

Avoid Starches & Sugars

If, and only if, you are outside of your fueling window (0-120 minutes after a workout) then it is typically best to avoid high-starch foods such as pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice. We are not efficient at synthesizing simple carbohydrates and starchy foods when our body is at a baseline metabolic rate (at rest), so save these foods for your post-training fueling window.

Food To Focus On

  1. Protein - Nature's Building Blocks: Your glycogen stores (carbs) are not going anywhere. You now need the building blocks (protein) for muscle repair and rejuvenation. Consume plenty of lean meats, fish, tofu, almonds, or any other high-quality protein should be central to each feeding.  

  2. Nutrients - Vitamins & Minerals: Think fruits and veggies. These low calorie and highly nutritious foods are great carbohydrates options in daily life, so long as you have fueled your workouts with other carbs. Fruits and veggies also provide the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are the bedrock of proper nutrition. Eat a wide variety (whatever is in season) and plenty of them. 

  3. Good Oils - Fats: Think fish oils, nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil. Often accused of being something to avoid, fats are essential to healthy living. Fats are critical in supporting recovery, the immune system, and proper bodily function —just make sure they are the correct fats.  As an endurance athlete, you need plenty of these beneficial fats.

Nailing Performance Hydration

In addition to taking in calories, it is key for performance that you consider your strategies for daily hydration. You might wonder: Why is hydration critical for endurance athletics? There are three main areas that are related to optimal performance.

  1. Bodily Transportation: Fluids are the great transporter, helping in the process of the absorption of calories and the GI process. 
  2. Delay Fatigue: By maintaining your blood volume (water/blood ratio) you can continue to deliver blood to the skin to cool down, as well as deliver blood to the muscles, which helps to create energy. This prevents the onset of fatigue that would occur when your blood volume drops.
  3. Maintain Core Temperature: Consistent fluid intake assists in maintaining optimal core temperature. Rising core temperature is one of the key performance limiters for endurance athletes. Your ability to absorb the calories you have consumed is dependent on water intake to transport those calories across the stomach and make them usable for the rest of your body. Many athletic GI issues originate from a stomach that is full of carbohydrate and not enough water to dilute and transport those calories out of the stomach.

The Busy Triathlete Tip

You cannot imagine how important daily hydration is to your energy levels and work performance. We also have key hydration strategies to minimize travel fatigue and stress. See our hydration graph below, which quantifies good hydration during training.

Weight(lbs) Weight(kg) 10 mL/hour 15 mL/hour Min Fl Oz/hour Max Fl Oz/hour
120 54.4 544 817 18 28
140 63.5 635 953 21 32
160 72.5 726 1089 25 37
180 81.7 817 1225 28 41
200 90.7 907 1361 31 46

Performance Hydration: What To Drink

 Here is an example: If you weight 150 pounds you would need to average 22.5 to 33 ounces (see graph above) of fluid per hour during training. So where do you get all that? 

  • Your hydration solution should be less than a 3% solution of carbohydrates
  • Always include some sodium and carbohydrate within the solution
  • Optimal choices include OSMO Nutrition, Skratch Labs, diluted GU Brew, SOS
  • Avoid regular sports drinks unless they are 50% diluted
  • Minimize taking in pure water

It is worth noting that if you succeed in this you will still finish slightly dehydrated - just much less dehydrated! 

Hydrate From Bottles, Fuel From Pockets

If you are looking for a mantra, we like to say "hydration from bottles, fueling from pockets.” This places the focus of what you put in your bottles to address your hydration needs, not your fueling calories. We recommend you avoid high-calorie liquids and stay away from anything that is more than a 3% solution of carbohydrate. Most of your fueling calories should come from what you grab out of your pockets, we prefer solid or semi-solid items. 

Pre-Hyrdate

Before a race (if you want to maximize pre-hydration) you might switch to a bottle or two of Pedialyte solution from your local pharmacy. It is a perfect solution for hydration and topping off electrolytes, and can help you prepare for a hot or humid race.

Hydrate With Intentionality

You are not a camel, so don’t think you need to suddenly aim to drink a massive amount of fluids pre-race. We want to avoid dehydration, but there is little need to hyper-hydrate. Instead, add a glass of lightly salted water with each meal, or pre-load a hydration solution, and relax with the knowledge that you are doing well. Massively overly hydrating pre-race will only lead to bigger issues. If you are training or racing in very cool conditions, then your requirements for hydration are going to be much less than in hotter and more humid environments. Keep in mind, we only see performance decline after about 3-4 % dehydration. For this reason, during any triathlon, you must focus on hydrating on the bike in order to set up the run.  Be mindful of the climate, elevation, temperature and stick to your hydration strategy. Remember to listen to your body and experiment to find out what works best for you. 

Nailing Daily Hydration 

It is very challenging to keep up with performance hydration recommendations. Therefore, your daily hydration goal is to recover from your dehydrated state that you have entered from training. You should be getting plenty of electrolytes from your food so you can consume mostly pure water without worry when you are doing daily hydration. If you are worried about cramping, add some electrolytes or sea salt to your daily drink. Being properly hydrated will ensure you maximize recovery and adaptations. Here are some tips to get you there:

  • Sip on water through the day 
  • Get a water bottle 
  • Enjoy 1–2 cups of tea in the middle of the afternoon to raise core temperature
  • Have 1-2 glasses of water with meals 
  • Have one glass of water before bed

The Busy Triathlete Tip

When you feel your energy dipping in the afternoon, don’t reach for a cup of coffee or Red Bull. You are likely dehydrated. Grab a glass of water or have some hot tea to raise core temperature. Energy levels will rise from within.

Click here to find out what happens when you don't hydrate appropriately.