So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Need to Drink Before Thirst? "Haile" Unlikely!

Well, if that isn't a shame...

Who knew someone not running with us needed the (eight) six-ounce water bottles I set next to the bus bench at the three-mile point on our Sunday morning loop?  Really they couldn't have.  Not that early in the morning, with temperatures more-resembling a typical San Diego day than late September in the Florida Gulf Coast.

Or Suzanne - who ran ahead of the pack this morning - decided she needed all of the water for herself.  Not likely; she'd have taken one bottle and left the rest.  Three extra pounds outside of her cell phone pouch?  It doesn't make sense.

So the person who decided to police the area of the group's water bottle stash could easily be mistaken for (another term for) a hot water bottle. One ending in "bag."

The water support would have justified a one-minute break at the hill top, but we weren't going to suffer for the lack.  Not even if the weather had been "typical" summer would we have been in peril.  At our average pace of a very-pedestrian twelve minutes per mile (to go off the front is acceptable but nobody is left behind in our group) all of the concerns which get written about in major magazines were moot.

Strange, everything I used to consider conventional wisdom about hydration and rehydration was pretty much all, er, mistaken.  Perhaps marketing is the better term.

I ordered a copy of Timothy Noakes' book "Waterlogged:  The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports" right about the time we went on our Key West training camp.  It arrived not long before we went to run Rock n' Roll Virginia Beach, but I was in the mood for more, er, uplifting fare while being stuck on planes and in airports.  Don't ask me why I took it along when I flew out west, then.  Oh, time.  I forgot.  Lots more time to digest the material.

To read research - or what passes to be - it doesn't hurt to look closer at the researcher's footnotes.  In the case of Noakes one finds no stone is left unturned; his 900-page-plus "Lore of Running" has a 100-page bibliography, only available by download from the publisher's web page.  The familiarity with the body of research from the earliest years of his professional career (he did his own share of back-tracking) has placed him directly at odds with the booming sports-beverage industry, the research groups funded by them and the publications referred to by the mainstream media.  Noakes' well-aimed shots at a national newspaper's health-and-fitness editor in the later stages of the book reinforced many of my own convictions.

The book is not a training manual.  But it's recommended for any person interested in running races where they'll be out for longer than two hours. For most, that is the half-marathon and longer.  Read the first chapters to place a finger on the pulse of the human side of exercise-associated hyponatremia/encephalopathy, the summaries of each chapter (should the eyes begin to glaze because of the medical and physiological terminology), and the last three chapters in full to understand the business behind the "need" to drink.  Once finished, you most likely will take the dictum "drink before your thirsty" with a grain of salt.  No pun intended.

Do you need to drink before you're thirsty?  No.  The human thirst response worked perfectly fine for thousands of years, and nothing has suddenly changed in the past thirty-to-forty.

What about dehydration; what happens to my performance if I lose two or three percent of my total body water?  While there might be some decrease, it's not catastrophic.  Studies over the past four decades show the fastest finishers in endurance events were the most dehydrated, up to twelve percent, in the case of Haile Gebreselassie during his world-best-setting marathon performances.

Won't I overheat?  Rectal temperatures of the fastest and slowest finishers at marathons weren't all that different, and went no higher than 40 degrees Celsius/104 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of how much or how little they drank.

How much and what should I drink?  Our body can only hold and process so much water at one time; and small amounts of carbohydrate (not sodium) not only speeds the emptying from the gut but aids in run performance...even if swished in the mouth and spit out, triggering pleasure receptors in the mouth.  The American College of Sports Medicine said to drink as much as tolerable, around 1.1 liters/hour.  That's more than most runners can tolerate.

And the faster you run the less likely you'll take in fluid; a slow(er) guy like me has a difficult time at the half-marathon distance taking in more than half a liter (hate drinking out of cups on course, don't like to carry big bottles).  I'm not one to recommend going back to the old school "drinking is for wimps" attitude, but I do think we need to seriously re-think how much, when and what we drink.  Given the choice between running faster and drinking more I'll choose to pour the drink over my head.  I'll save my gut space for an adult beverage afterward.

Should we listen to our body or to the commercials?

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