hydration during a multi-stage event
One of the most important parts of your preparation for a multi stage ultramarathon is calculating and executing your nutrition and hydration plan well.
In this article we will touch on some good strategies to keep your body in good nick.
When taking part in a multi-stage race in a hot country, such as Ultra X Sri Lanka or Jordan, your sweat rate will be high, meaning your body will lose a lot of water. Runners are relatively well educated on the risk of becoming dehydrated but are often unaware of something called hyponatremia. This is something we, as race organisers, have seen and are constantly aware of.
Just drinking water when sweating a lot dilutes sodium levels which cannot only impair performance, but more seriously upset your body’s electrolyte balance.
Hyponatremia occurs when the body experiences a loss of sodium (salt), often caused by over drinking plain water and sweating heavily. As a result of low sodium, the amount of water in your body rises and causes your cells to swell, which is problematic. Fortunately, by taking the time to prepare for this in advance of the race and developing a plan tailored to you we can minimise the risk of it occurring.
A good way to ensure that you keep your electrolytes at the level they need to be is to make sure that you are eating all the food/fuel that you have planned for the day.
Those that struggle to finish their meals or suffer from vomiting or diarrhoea are far more likely to suffer because they are losing or not taking in vital salts and sugars.
So what is the advice and how can you ensure that you do not run into difficulty during a multi-stage?
• Firstly, aim to eat at least 2 well sized dehydrated (or similar) main meals a day — these contain a load of sodium and are a great way to boost electrolyte levels.
• Snack frequently on bars, gels and other nibbles while on the move
• Drink small sips of fluid frequently
• Include electrolyte and/or salt tablets in your hydration strategy
It is important to remember that everyone’s requirements are different and so there is no “one size fits all” strategy. However, as a guideline see below for an example of a successful hydration approach that has worked at Ultra X Jordan:
Pre-run — Electrolyte solution such as Precision Hydration 250 sachet
During — at every 10km check-point where you will refill your water bottles (1.5l in total):
• 1 x salt tablet
• Add Elete, or similar, Electrolyte solution to one 750ml bottle (this is flavourless and so tastes just like water)
• Add 1 x tablet, such as NUUN or High5, to the other 750ml bottle
Post run — 1 x Dioralyte
Planning your hydration and nutrition strategy before any race is fundamental in preventing issues.
Please take the time to develop a strategy that works for you.