Dehydration = Poor Performance

As the weather gets hotter, the risk of dehydration gets more serious. And for athletes that train hard all winter, or build for months at a time, hot weather can hurt or even destroy your race day efforts. A lot goes into your training, and as much as nutrition is a key, hydration can play an even greater importance. As a rule, for the rest of this article, everything I am referencing is for endurance exercise over 2 hours. This can apply to shorter exercise, but for the most part, 2+ hours is what I am speaking of.

My definition of dehydration, as well as most in science, is: having lost more than 2% of your body weight.

Take a typical athlete of 150lbs. 2% of 150 is 3 lbs. So, take your weight, multiply it by 2% and you’ll get your magic number. If you lose more during a workout or race then 2% of your body weight, you’re dehydrated and if will impair your performance. In addition to the general “impairing performance,” being dehydrated by just 1% will increase your heart rate 5-8 beats and increase your core temp by .2-.3 degrees C. For each percentage increase of body weight loss, your core body temp will go up and your heart rate will increase.

One interesting fact is, if it’s cool outside (50’s and 60 degrees), and you lose 1-2% water, that amount of dehydration has not been shown to impair performance. But take the same 1-2% loss of water in a hot environment (80’s-90+degree), and it will significantly impair your performance. I wish I had some specific numbers for you like “if you lose 2%, you will lose 10% of your speed.” Unfortunately, the facts just show, if you lose 2% of your body weight, specifically in warmer environment, you will have an impaired performance. The more dehydrated, and the hotter it is, the worse you will do. After your exercise session or race is over, drink 1 20-24oz bottle of electrolyte fluid (sports drink, nuun, etc) to replace each pound of weight lost. This could take several hours to do, not all at once.

History:

The history of recommendation of hydration is a varied one.

  • 1960’s-most athletes drank little to no water during exercise
  • 70’s/80’s-athletes were told  to drink 100-200ml every 203km. Depending on your speed, that could amount to 330-2000ml/hour. Or for those of us in the US, 11-67oz/hour. That is a huge range and likely to cause problems.
  • 90’s-athletes were encouraged to drink “the maximal amount of fluid during exercise that can be tolerated without causing GI distress and up to a rate equal to that lost from sweating.” The problem was people took this to say that you should drink as much as possible, without the last part “equal to the amount lost from sweating.” Without the last part, over hydration could happen.
  • Today-the recommendation for athletes is to drink enough to prevent excessive dehydration (2%) and electrolyte losses. It is a more individualized approach and requires athletes to drink to their OWN needs.

*The best way to say this is, drink to match your fluid loss. The average athlete loses over 1 L of sweat an hour. Some might lose more, some lose less.*

If you don’t know how much you should drink, performing a sweat test is key. If you’d like to do one, an easy way to do it is to go to http://www.PowerBar.com and follow their sweat test. For most athletes, I recommend at least 24oz (one typical cycling water bottle) per hour and up to 48oz/hour in hot conditions. Many athletes drink 32oz, or a bottle and a half of fluid per hour.

Why Does Dehydration Cause Impaired Performance:

There are many reasons that dehydration causes performance, not just one

  1. Increased cardiovascular strain-there is a greater strain on the cardiovascular system due to the competition of the body trying to dissipate heat while supplying blood to the muscles
  2. Reduced blood volume, reduced stroke volume and reduced blood flow to the muscles-This is due to the water lost, reducing plasma volume levels, making the heart beat “harder” and not as much.
  3. Hyperthermia-this is an increase in your core body temperature. A 1 degree (C) increase in body temp alone isn’t enough to cause a decrease in performance, but take the 1 degree increase, and add in dehydration, this will make things a lot worse.
  4. Others including muscle metabolism, neurological function and increased muscle glycogen use

Electrolytes:

Sodium is the most important electrolyte lost in sweat. This is also very important to replace while working out and racing. Yes, there are other electrolytes lost in sweat, however they have not proven to be as important to you to replace. I recommend 400-800mg of sodium per hour in hot conditions. Some athletes need more than this, with some athletes taking in 1500mg+ per hour. This is very individual and will require some trial and error on your part.

If you are working out and/or racing in hot conditions for 2+ hours, taking in sodium is even more important. Remember, cooler weather and shorter bouts of exercise don’t always need electrolyte replenishment, however this isn’t always the case.

Take Away:

  • Drink to your own fluid loss. replenish the fluid and sodium lost in your workout or race
  • Keep body weight lost to less than 2% of your body weight
  • The hotter and longer you exercise, the more important fluid and electrolytes/sodium is
  • Perform a sweat rate test to determine your own losses, however a good starting point is 24oz of fluid and 400mg of sodium per hour.
  • Becoming dehydrated will impair your performance, potentially causing you to DNF, impair your performance and possibly putting yourself in serious harm.
  • Drink 1 bottle of fluid post exercise, to replace each pound of weight lost over your 2%

 

 

 

 

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Black Bean Burgers And Sweet Potato Fries (vegetarian)

Black bean burger with sweet potato fries!

Black bean burger with sweet potato fries!

I love beans. They are such a nutritious food, high in fiber (lowers cholesterol and good for you GI tract), protein (muscle growth, recovery), zinc (healthy immune system) and antioxidants including anthocyanins (cancer protection).  And if you are a vegan or vegetarian, and you combine beans with a whole grain (like brown rice), it makes a complete protein. Also, they are easy on the wallet. So yes, you all know the nursery rhyme “beans beans good for the heart, the more you eat them, the more you fart.” Yes, this is also true. But I can also promise that the more beans and the higher your fiber intake, the less it affects you.

You should try to eat diets high in fiber. High in fiber is at least 25g of fiber a day. Several times I’ve added up the total amount of fiber we eat on a daily basis. Brett more than me, just because he eats more. But we are typically in the range of 50g of fiber a day. The average American only eats 15g of fiber a day. Other than black beans and just beans in general, high fiber foods include peas, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, corn and nuts.

When making these, if you want to also make the sweet potato fries, you should start the fries first. By the time the oven has pre-heated and they have cooked the initial 15min and you are ready to flip the fries, the burgers can go in as well. Then, after the fries cook their additional 15min and are done, the burgers only have 10min or so left to cook. The fries can cool a little while the burgers are cooking, or cover with foil.

Black Bean Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries, 5 Servings

Burgers:

  • 1x16oz can of low sodium black beans, drained and mashed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4c of red onion, minced
  • 1 c of bell peppers, minced- I used 1/2c of green pepper and 1/2c of yellow pepper left over
  • 1 c of mushrooms, minced
  • 1/2 c of bread crumbs, oats or cooked quinoa
  • Spices: 10 shakes of cumin, 10 shakes of chili powder, 10 shakes of old bay, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion, condiments-ketchup/mustard/mayo
  1. The oven should already be pre-heated to 400 degrees if cooking the fries. If not, pre-heat to 400 degrees. Place foil on a baking sheet or 9×13 pan, coated in cooking spray or oil.
  2. In a large bowl mash the black beans until thick, looking almost like refried beans.
  3. In a food processor, or just with a knife, mince or chop the garlic, onion, pepper and mushrooms. A food processor will make the burgers more even/uniform in texture, however I don’t have a food processor, so I just use a knife.
  4. Mix the minced veggies in with the beans. Add bread crumbs, and spices and stir. Taste now to make sure you are happy with the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
  5. Stir in the egg with your hands (it’s easier) and make sure the mixture is sticky, but forms and holds the shape of a patty.
  6. Create 5 evenly shaped black bean patties
  7. Place the patties on a foil lined or cooking spray coated pan and bake 10-15min per side. I baked my for 15min, then flipped for an additional 10min.
  8. Add the toppings and condiments of your choice.

Sweet Potato Fries:

  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
  • olive oil, just a little
  • salt, pepper, additional spices-I used old bay and garlic as well
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice sweet potatoes, and in a large bowl or ziplock bag, sprinkle olive oil and spices. Shake the bag or stir to mix
  3. On a foil lined baking sheet, spread the sweet potato slices so that they aren’t overlapping
  4. Cook for 15 min, then flip and cook an additional 15min
  5. Enjoy!

 

The Mind-Body Connection and Raiki

*I believe my computer has downloaded a virus (cough cough Brett), so ignore that some of the words are highlighted. I apologize for that and will work to fix it*

Years ago, when I was swimming in college, I looked for ways to better myself as an athlete. Yes, training hard is key, but I knew there was something I wasn’t tapping into. And that was the mind-body connection. I won’t begin to pretend that I am anything close to an expert on this subject. In fact, I could use more work, as could most everyone. Which is why then, while dealing with this terribly frustrating injury, I decided to seek help in the mind-body connection.

As a swimmer and triathlete, visualization has always been a key part of my training and competition. In high school Coach Shields used to do a visualization exercise with the swim team before key meets. He would have us go out in the hall, or to the library, and he would read us a “story” about a seagull flying high through the air. I don’t remember it very clearly, but I do remember we were to visualize our races, seeing things going exactly as we had planned.

I continued visualizing throughout college and then again when I started triathlon. I think practicing seeing your race, seeing yourself going smoothly and efficiently through a part of the course that might make you nervous, seeing a perfect execution, this will help you to have a better race.  And while I think it’s very important to do this during your season, what I’ve been learning is that when your injured, there is also a strong mind-body connection. And my mind and body were off.

Anger, frustration, fear, denial. These are and were the emotions that I’ve been having and dealing with the past year+.  And as positive of a person as I am, not having answers for an injury that has taken me out of any exercise has been almost unbearable. Unfortunately, Brett has been hearing the most of these, and after a while, a friend suggested Raiki. For both my sanity and Brett’s. Not really understanding Raiki, I decided what could it hurt, so I made an appointment.

Raiki:(taken from Reiki.org)-Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

Having a fairly scientific mind, but also being very spiritual, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think about Raiki. I personally am a Christian, but after speaking with the practitioner, I wanted to at least give a few sessions a go. Kelly (who used to be a stock broker), the practitioner explained that Raiki isn’t a religion, it’s more spiritual. She explained about the 7 Chakras in the body, and how our body’s energy is interconnected.

7 Chakras:

  1. Root Chakra- the tailbone area, feeling grounded
  2. Sacral Chakra- lower abdomen, ability to accept others
  3. Solar Plexus Chakra- upper abdomen, confidence
  4. Heart Chakra- heart, love, friendship
  5. Throat Chakra- throat, communication
  6. Third Eye Chakra- forehead, ability to see the big picture
  7. Crown Chakra- top of the head, our connection to spirituality

A Raiki room is laid out like a massage therapy room. There is a massage table, covered in sheets, soft lighting, calming music, soothing colors, etc. Unlike massage, you keep your clothes on, however you do lay under the blanket on the massage table to keep you warm. Then, the practitioner has you close your eyes and relax.

Kelly used crystals in the two sessions that I had. She placed one on my forehead, heart and stomach. She said not every practitioner uses them, although she liked to. At first they felt strange, however soon enough I didn’t notice them. Then, she spend the next part of an hour moving her hands over your body, around an inch or two above. She occasionally placed her hands on my shoulders, neck and jawbone. She goes into a meditation, where she can feel the energy flowing through your body.This is where I do not know if I believe this 100%, but I do believe there are people with healing gifts. And I desperately want to feel normal again, and not this frustrated and angry person.

All in all I didn’t feel anything expect warmth and relaxation. Raiki is not like massage therapy, where once you release a knot, you feel much better. It takes time to reconnect the chakras.

After we were done, Kelly told me that the three head chakras were disconnected. My throat, third eye and crown were all disconnected. So, she said she spent a fair amount of time reconnecting my chakras. She also said the energy on the right side of my body wasn’t moving as freely as the left side of my body. Given that my right hamstring is the one that is torn, that makes sense. It also makes sense that my head chakras are disconnected. For the past year I have been so disconnected from my head to my body, that it makes sense.

In all I went to Kelly twice. I might schedule a third session, but honestly, while I didn’t feel physically better, I felt emotionally better. I felt calmer about my injury and that where I am today is OK. I will eventually be back to being the athlete that I once was, it just isn’t right now. And no amount of wishing, pleading, praying, crying or yelling is going to help. So, would I recommend Raiki….yes. If you feel disconnected, and want to try a different approach to healing, I would give it a try.

Yes, I feel emotionally better, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on finding out what’s really causing my pain. Now that the hamstring tear is healed, what could it be? Well, a few days ago I stumbled across several research studies talking about proximal hamstring syndrome. I think I may know the direction to go in next. It won’t be an easy or fun direction, but I’m willing to take it. I want to be me again.

Two Sugars and Homemade Gel

Continuing from my last blog post, taking in two sugars is better than just one sugar during exercise. And you’ll notice this as almost every sports nutrition company in the market today has at least two sugars in their products. The only ones that I can think of that don’t, are Honey Stinger gel (although their other products do) and Hammer products. I try to stay current on all the sports nutrition companies in the market, but forgive me if I’ve misspoken about the two above.

The reason that two sugars is better than one is:

Carbohydrates travel on different pathways in the cells. Once you’ve overloaded a pathway, you can’t get any more of that specific sugar/carbohydrate into your body. Original research showed 60g/hr was all the body could take in, absorb and use.  Then, a study was conducted several years ago that showed if you add in a second carb, it will travel on a different pathway, and more energy can and will be delivered to your muscles. The “new” numbers for g/hr are now up to 90g/hr, or 50% more. That is the equivalent of  360kcal/hour, or 3.5 gels/a PowerBar and a gel. There are many combinations to get 360kcal.

This research was not done by PowerBar, but the head of RD (research and development) used this study for PowerBar’s new carb blend of C2max. The two sugars studied were glucose and fructose in a 2:1 ratio and in this ratio, the athletes studied had an 8% increase in performance. If you remember from the last blog post, you want to have either monosaccharides or disaccharides as your sugar sources. Occasionally PowerBar uses maltodextrin and fructose, but the combo is generally glucose and fructose. Either way, they are simple digestible carbs.

Making Your Own Gel:

I think the sports nutrition companies in the market today make some pretty fantastic things. There are plenty of different companies to choose from, different people and athletes marketed to, and all the sports nutrition you could ever want. I’m a bit biased towards PowerBar, but there are other good choices out there as well.

That being said, if you find yourself looking to save money, or you’re wanting to see exactly how something you are putting in your body is prepared, it is possible to create your own gel. There are just a few things to think of.

They are:

  • You need two sugar sources
  • You need to add an electrolyte mix (or at least just salt)
  • You can add caffeine if you’d like (yes please)
  • You need a container to hold the gel

Maltodextrin is inexpensive and readily available in today’s market. If you search for it online, you could find several store that will ship you bulk maltodextrin powder. Maltodextrin will make a good sugar source as it breaks down to glucose, but you’ll need another sugar source.

Additional sugar sources include:

  1. Honey
  2. Agave
  3. Brown Rice Syrup
  4. Fructose
  5. Barley Malt

All of these sugars can be bought at your grocery store, or online in powdered form. In addition, you can buy powdered electrolytes and caffeine. Or you can just use table salt as well. Depending on your sugar combination, you might need to heat the sugars together on the stove, with water possibly to get them to blend together.

Here are some of my suggested combinations. All should be in a 60/40 ratio.

  1. Maltodextrin/Honey
  2. Maltodextrin/Agave
  3. Maltodextrin/Fructose
  4. Brown Rice Syrup/Honey
  5. Brown Rice Syrup/Agave
  6. Barley Malt/Honey
  7. Barley Malt/Agave

Depending on which you use, you might have to stir really well or the gel could be a bit lumpy. The approximate calories/carbs/electrolytes you are looking for in a gel are:

  • Around 100 kcal
  • Around 25g of carb
  • 50-200mg of Sodium
  • Around 50mg of Potassium
  • 25-50mg of caffeine

You may have to do a “science experiment” to get your mixtures just right. Go ahead and do some trial and error, it should be fun right. Even though I’m giving you the ingredients to make a gel, and the right amounts of things to look for in a gel, I’ve personally never made a gel. So I feel bad in that I can’t tell you my personal experience, but I’m giving you the best ingredients to get started.

One day I will try this. I love to make homemade energy bars for cycling, so why not gel. But for the time being, I’ll leave that up to the companies that make the big bucks. I did find a website that had instructions for making your own gel too. Check it out below.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Energy-Gel/

Good luck!

 

Added Sugar vs Natural Sugar

At nutrition clinics and expos I’m often asked the same questions over and over. Often they are too in-depth to answer at expos, but I love clinics because I have a lot of one on one, or one on fifteen time. If I had to say what my most often asked about topic was, was sugar. And the most common question is, how much sugar is in this? If you are diabetic or on a ketone diet, this is a valid question. But often, athletes don’t realize that sugar is the fuel our bodies use, and we must take in sugar when exercising.

There is a lot of talk about sugar, and for good reason. The American diet is full of added sugar, which is not good for our health. I think we are starting to realize that added sugar isn’t healthy, and because of that, people have questions on it. And truthfully, there is a lot of misconception out there. For example, I just did a quick google search of “athletes and sugar” to see what I came up with. And what I saw was some good info, but there was also some very misleading and unscientific info. Two things that are saw:

-1 tsp of added sugar is harmful for every organ in our body-WHAT???

-Eating sugar decreases your immune system-FALSE, it’s actually that low carb diets decrease your immune system. That’s another blog though.

So what are the truths about sugar?

  • As adults, we want to keep our normal day-to-day diets as low in added sugar as possible. Think 25g of added sugar or less. This does not mean milk, fruit or veggies.
  • As athletes, when doing a quality workout, we don’t count the added sugar in drinks, gels, bars, chews, etc. We need that extra sugar to fuel our bodies. Now quality is the key word. As I’ve mentioned before, not every workout should be fueled, but longer, more intense workouts should be.

Sports Nutrition and Added Sugar VS Whole Food:

The reason we use sports nutrition is that for endurance exercise, we need both quick and sustained energy. When we are out training and racing for 2-12+ hours, you need to replenish the fuel you are losing. The slower you go, (ultras, century’s, double century’s, etc) the more whole food you can digest( dates, raisins, sweet potatoes, rice bars, PBJ sandwiches) without any issue. The faster you go, the more you need to rely on simple, digestible carbohydrates. When working hard, especially running, your body does not want to have to digest too much fat, protein or fiber. The body also treats all sugar, natural vs processed the same. A sugar is broken down the same way.

Types of Sports Nutrition:

  • Gels-in my opinion, gels are the most convenient way to get calories easily and quickly into our bodies during endurance exercise. I would also put using drinks as your fuel in this category. They are easy, quick and don’t require chewing or digesting. All they really need is to be taken with enough water to not cause GI issues. As long as you drink enough water, 8oz per gel, your stomach can digest gel. If you don’t take them with enough water, it will slow down your body’s absorption rate and can cause GI issues.
  • Chews- If you’ve tried drinking water with gels, but they still cause GI issues, if you don’t like their consistency, or they just aren’t for you, then chews are a good alternative. Chews are just gel in a chew form. Think of them as gel lite. You still need to drink water with them, but because you are taking them in at a slower rate, you don’t need as much water. They are bulkier to carry though.
  • Blends– This is a new category that PowerBar created last year. It’s a fruit puree, blended together and put into a baby food squeezy. There are several other companies that have started doing this as well. They are beneficial because they are also simple digestible carbs, almost partially digested and easier on the stomach. They are less concentrated than gels however, so will require more of them. Good for the bike and the run.
  • Bars/Bites- These are good, especially on the bike, or if you are hiking, or running slowly enough to digest them. I think it’s too hard for the average person to take in bars while running quickly. Having a bar can be a nice way to take away some of the hunger while you’re in an all day event, and if taken early, will be digested before you start your run. I have known some athletes that can eat PowerBars while running and be fine though.
  • Whole food (potatoes, dates, etc)- These types of foods can work well, especially along the same lines as the bars and bites. If you are going slow enough, you can digest just about everything. But sports nutrition developed out of necessity. It’s hard to carry whole food, hard to eat it and often hard to digest it. On the bike it’s not as hard, but carrying it on the run is. Remember, your body does not need the added fat (we have enough of it stored), and fiber while working hard. Once again, if you’re going easy enough, your body can handle it, but if you’re working hard, it often can’t.

***One thing I tell my athletes and nutrition clients is, on race day, you eat opposite of how you should normally eat. Meaning, your normal diet should be low in added sugar and processed foods, and high in whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and healthy fat. On race day, your diet should be the opposite. Simple “white” carbs, little fat, protein and fiber.***

Is Natural Sugar Better during Exercise/Racing?

From a sugar standpoint, sugar is sugar. You body sees sugar and it reacts the same. The glycemic index will tell us how fast it is absorbed, but when talking about can your body recognize say honey vs a processed sugar, it really can’t. Of course when you aren’t racing or training, natural sugar is the only thing you should use.

Other Sugar Info-Types:

Monosaccharides: “simple sugars”- 3 common ones are glucose (blood sugar), galactose (forms milk sugar) and fructose (fruit/honey/agave).

Disaccharides: “double sugars”- these are sugars that are linked together that break apart easily. 3 common ones are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (galactose plus glucose to form milk sugar) and maltose (glucose plus glucose-brown rice syrup/barley malt)

Polysaccharides: “chains of sugar”-this is when more than two sugars are linked together in a chain. These are starches, or complex carbs that don’t break apart very easily- whole grains.

So, looking at these types of sugars, which are the ones that endurance athletes should use? The two categories to focus on are mono and disaccharides. The only caveat to this is maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin-this is a sugar as well, but you’ll notice it doesn’t have an -ose at the end of it, and people don’t realize it’s a sugar. Maltodextrin is a form of corn starch, and is a glucose polymer. This means it is units of glucose connected together. The glucose units are easily broken and have been known to be easier on the stomach. Maltodextrin is almost tasteless as well. So it makes a good additive.

So now we’ve gone over the types of sugars, I’ll write tomorrow on how we put the sugars together, and why it’s more beneficial for athletes to have two types of sugar vs only one type.