Sweating the Small Stuff: Electrolytes

Sweating the Small Stuff: Electrolytes

 By Nuun Guest Blogger Jesse Kropelnicki of The Core Diet.

Even if you have never had a “cramping problem” in the past, neglecting electrolytes in training and racing could be compromising your results. Just like you wouldn’t wait until you were dehydrated to drink fluids, waiting until that first “cramp” is a signal from your body that your performance has been suffering for quite some time. Electrolytes play a crucial role in muscle function, adequate hydration status and digestion fluids during racing.

What is an electrolyte?

In medical or scientific terms, an electrolyte is “any compound that, in solution or in molten form, conducts electricity and is decomposed (electrolyzed) by it. It is an ionizable substance in solution.”

In other words, it’s a term for minerals that, when dissolved in water, break into positive or negative electrically-charged ions (anions or cations).

What are the functions of electrolytes?

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Do you take electrolyte supplements before or after your run?

These ions carry electrical energy necessary for many functions in the human body, and optimal athletic performance requires adequate (and a consistent) supply of electrolytes. These ions move across membranes carrying fluids, nutrients and water. They aid in a number of processes that are important to an athlete:

  • Regulation of body fluids
  • Muscle contraction (including the heart)
  • Transmission of nerve impulses

However, repeated days of moderate or severe sweating can result in such substantial electrolyte loss, particularly sodium because of its high concentration of this mineral in sweat. When electrolytes are lost too quickly, the body does not have the ability to restore them as rapidly as they were lost. In these situations, dietary mineral intake is generally not sufficient to compensate for these large losses, and supplementation is needed to replace these electrolytes in order to maintain concentrations of body fluids.

What are the major electrolytes in the body and what do they do?

  • Sodium (Na+) – regulates total amount of water in the body
  • Potassium (K+) – regulates heartbeat and muscle function
  • Magnesium (Mg2+) – aids in muscle relaxation
  • Calcium (Ca2+) – aids in muscle contraction
  • Chloride (Cl-) – helps maintain a normal balance of body fluids

How are electrolytes lost?

Electrolytes are lost through urine and sweat. Endurance athletes can lose large volumes of sweat on a daily basis, which is accompanied by a similarly large electrolyte loss.  Each athlete has different electrolyte (and fluid) needs and environmental conditions of training and racing will factor into this.

  • Average sweat rate is typically 1 – 1.5L of fluid per hour (32 – 48 oz.) and 1,000 – 1,500 mg of sodium per hour while running (a bit less when cycling).
  • Most people’s sweat contains about 500mg of sodium per 16oz. Very salty sweaters can have up to about 1,500 mg per 16 oz. of sweat.
  • Sweat rate will depend on several factors including environmental conditions (temperature, humidity), genetics and the athletic fitness of the athlete.

Side Effects of Dehydration

In most cases, muscle cramping is related to either sodium or magnesium deficiency in athletes. If a deficiency occurs, cramps, tremors and spasm can be present. It is the Core Diet’s experience that acute occurrence of cramps during racing is typically due to sodium loss, and more chronic cramping (even between activity, during swimming or while sleeping) is typically due to magnesium deficiency. Another sign of sodium related cramping is a sloshy stomach. Another electrolyte, magnesium, is key in avoiding muscle spasms. A muscle “twitch” is usually a sign of low magnesium levels. Having proper sodium balance during digestion is important to fluid absorption.

Have you ever felt tingling fingers during your racing? If you have, you probably are experiencing a potassium deficiency. Many times a simple half banana available on many race courses can fix this problem before it impacts race performance.

How to replenish electrolytes?

Electrolytes help to increase the absorption of fluids into the bloodstream, and your muscular system operates efficiently which is why the best hydration plan is one that includes these minerals. Using products such as Nuun Active Hydration (electrolyte-enhanced drink tablets) before, during, and after workouts can go a long way to replenish electrolytes and achieve your best performance.

Nuun provides great-tasting active hydration.

About Nuun

Nuun is a great tasting on-the-go hydration tablet with the electrolytes you need to hydrate and re-fuel, but none of the sugar and junk found in sugary sports drinks. Nuun is available in over 5,000 stores in the U.S. and in over 30 countries. Visit nuun.com to learn more.

About The Core Diet

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite triathlon coach and founder of TheCoreDiet.com, a leading provider of sports nutrition. He coaches professional triathletes Caitlin Snow, Ethan Brown, and Pedro Gomes with quantitative training and nutrition protocols. Track Jesse’s coaching strategies tips on his blog at kropelnicki.com.

Jaime Windrow is a Registered Dietitian and the Nutrition Programs Director at TheCoreDiet.com. Jaime’s interest in sports nutrition began when she danced professionally for 12 years with the Radio City Rockettes, and continued when she began to race in triathlons as an elite amateur. Jamie holds a number of age-group wins and podium finishes, as well as a finish in Kona at the Ironman World Championships.

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Nutrition Tips for Runners

Nutrition Tips for Runners

Nutrition for runnersWhy is nutrition so critical to my success as a runner?  Fortunately, my wife is a registered dietitian.  She helps me maintain the proper balance of foods to help me thrive as a fit, healthy person.   Although I see so many overweight and out of condition people, among runners and other athletes, there is an intense new focus on the role that nutrition plays in being able to improve one’s performance.  Unlike other training plans, we include a complete nutrition plan as a part of our marathon plans.

Before we discuss specific meals and recovery foods, it’s important for athletes to understood some basic nutritional facts.  Nutrition can imply a lot of different things depending upon whom you ask or what you read. We all want the food we consume to taste good, but when it comes to processed, sugary or fatty foods, moderate consumption is best. If you take some time to eat healthier, you will notice a difference in your performance.  But telling runners to simply eat “healthy” isn’t the solution.

Fiber is an important part of anyone’s diet. Fiber assists in weight management by helping you not to feel hungry. It also works to help lower blood cholesterol. Eating fiber will also to decrease your risk of some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Minimize intake of processed foods.  This is because many nutrients are lost when processed foods are made. A whole-grain wheat bread is a much better choice than a multi-grain “processed” bread, for example. If you look at the ingredients of bread, look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient.  You can also look for grams of dietary fiber.  Good “whole grain” breads have 3 or more grams of dietary fiber.

Instead of snacking on sweet items like cookies, ice cream and chips, try healthier foods like fruit or non fat greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt is better than regular yogurt, because it contains less sugar and has more protein and active cultures that are good for digestion.  Also consider snacking on lowfat crackers with lowfat cheese.  These options provide carbohydrates and protein for energy and to build muscle.

In order to get essential amino acids (proteins) which are important for recovery, I recommend regularly eating low fat meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, nonfat or 1% milk, nuts and pseudo grains like Quinoa.  Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.  Quinoa is considered a superfood.  I look for recipes with quinoa, make a batch and keep it in the refrigerator for after hard workouts.  These recipes taste great and really help me recover faster than consuming processed foods.

A few other foods that I eat as a part of my regular diet include:

1) Fresh & frozen fruit.  I mix these into my cereal, oatmeal or greek yogurt.  I also mix fruit into smoothies that I make after a hard workout.  Oranges, bananas and apples are easy to eat fresh fruits.  Consume these 3-5 times/day.

2) Consume vegetables 2-3 times per day.  Green leafy vegetables are some of the best foods you can put into your body.   I go through bags of Spinach and Kale.  Kale is one of my secret superfoods.

The following information is taken from Wikopedia on the benefits of kale.  Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium.  Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.  Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.

Bottomline, get Kale into your diet somehow.  A list of my Top 10 Secret Superfoods is included in all of my marathon training plans.

 

3) Another helpful approach to healthy eating is not to deprive yourself of foods you enjoy, but rather to swap them out for similar foods that will provide more or better nutrition.  One way you can do this is with soy products.  Soy is a legume and is an expensive, but very efficient protein. Soy products are available in many forms such as milk, hot dogs and veggie burgers.  Soy products are a good substitute for animal products because, unlike some other beans, soy offers a ‘complete’ protein profile.  This means that soy beans contain an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for the dietary needs of humans.  Soy protein products can replace animal-based foods, which also have complete proteins but tend to contain more fat, especially saturated fat.

Try new ways to eat foods you eat on a regular basis. Instead of just eating plain yogurt, pour a bit of honey in and experience a new taste sensation. Instead of always steaming broccoli, try it in a stir-fry with a few other vegetables. You’ll be more likely to eat healthy if you have fun with it.

Grapefruit, asparagus, and cantaloupe contain very few calories, but provide your body with many essential vitamins. You should also look for low calorie foods that are high in protein, such as salmon and kidney beans. These will give you the energy you need to get through the day.

Legumes are superstars of the nutritional world because they provide protein and help balance blood sugar.  But they may seem dull. Just dress them up in a good recipe and they are superstars of taste also: lentils become a good veggie burger, chick peas become hummus, beans excel in Mexican dishes, and there is nothing better than a bowl of homemade pea soup on a cold winter day!

Eating a well balanced and healthy diet is not something that’s going to happen overnight. There’s one secret food or pill that’s going to keep you injury free and maximize your performance.  However, a diet that’s rich in multi-colored vegetables, lean meats, fiber, fruit and numerous other protein sources is the key to your success.  If you expect to exercise almost everyday,  nutrition must play a role.  The foods that go into your body will make a difference in how quickly you recover and how well you perform.  Sure you want your food to be tasty.  Just make sure that your food choices are sensible.

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Guest Blog: Running Myth- Good Running Nutrition is Complicated and Expensive

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See below for Kelly’s “Long Run Sandwich Bites” Recipe.

For every nutrition question you have, there are at least ten expensive nutrition products on the market that claim to have the answer.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed.  Luckily, good running nutrition can be broken down into a few simple principles.

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Thumbs up for good nutrition! Guest Blogger Kelly Egan breaks down nutrition basics for runners.

Carbs vs. Other Nutrients

Based on body weight, a typical athletic diet should be about 60 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 25 percent fat.  To get ready for a race, “carbo load” by bumping up your carbohydrate intake for three to four days before the event.   Keep a food and workout diary if you make any changes to your diet to help you figure out what works for you.

Supplements

Many runners have questions about supplements – which to take, how many, at what times, etc.  Skip those expensive pills and powders and spend your money on fresh fruits and vegetables instead.  A varied diet will provide all the vitamins and essential nutrients that your body needs. Plus, your body is able to absorb nutrients better from food than pills.  Fun fact: Consuming beets, a source of nitrate, has been shown to increase athletic performance!

Protein and Muscle Recovery

There is a belief that high amounts of protein, especially protein powders, improve muscle growth.  A benefit to this has not been shown – excess protein is simply converted into energy – or fat.  Save your money!  Immediately after your run, enjoy an ice-cold glass of low-fat chocolate milk!  It has a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio and has been proven to help the recovery process.  For an added benefit, have another glass two hours later – ideally with a healthy, balanced meal.

In Summary:

  • A basic running diet should have roughly 60 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 25 percent fat – but listen to your body. Consult with a dietitian or nutritionist for best results.
  • Keep a diet and workout log to help you figure out what works best for you.
  • Increase your carbohydrate intake for 3-4 days before a race.
  • Instead of focusing on supplements, eat a balanced diet instead.
  • For a natural performance boost, eat beets!
  • Chocolate milk is an effective and cheap recovery drink.

 

In addition to this brief intro to running nutrition, I’d like to share an easy and nutritious snack to try during long runs.  I came up with this idea after getting sick of bad-tasting gels and energy bars with a long list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce.

Long Run Sandwich Bites

You will need:

  • Bread – you can use whole grain or white, depending on what your stomach tolerates
  • Peanut or other nut butter – I like dark chocolate Yumbutter
  • Jam or honey

Combine all of your ingredients to make a sandwich.

  1. Use a knife or mini cookie cutter to cut your sandwich into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Pack a handful in a small sandwich baggie to take along on your long runs.
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Pack these little guys with you on your next long run for on-the-go, inexpensive fuel.

 

running myth on nutrition, running nutrition myth busted, nutrition myths for runners, nutrients for runners needsKelly Egan is a guest blogger for Brooks, as well as a member of our Inspire Daily program. Look for more posts from her on running myths in the coming months. Kelly is a fourth year medical student in Madison, Wis.  This year, she plans to volunteer in India, graduate from school, get married, honeymoon in Morocco, move across the country and get her first job – in that order.  To follow her adventures, please visit runningblonde.com.

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How, When & Why to Hydrate During a Run

Hydration for runners

 

 

 

 

 

 

[UPDATED 1/25/16] The following article about hydration for runners was posted a few years ago.  I wanted to update it with some observations from my recent performance at the 2016 Vancouver Lake 1/2 Marathon.

Background: A few months ago, I read an article in Runner’s World about 60 year old, Dave Walters.  I posted my comments and a link to the article on my Facebook Page.  One of the main things discussed in the article was Dave’s commitment to hydration.  One of his secrets to recovery was to hydrate before, during and after the race (in this case, the 2015 Chicago Marathon).

My results: Yesterday, I completed the Vancouver Lake 1/2 marathon.  Although I’ve always attempted to hydrate properly prior to any race and workout, I really made a commitment starting last Friday to get hydrated.  Even if it meant that I would have to get up at night a few times, I wanted to ensure that I was properly hydrated.  By the time Sunday morning arrived, I knew that I was easily hydrated because I was needing to go every 20 – 25 minutes right up to the race.  Although I wasn’t able to drink a lot during the race (only 4 aid stations and I spilt alot), my pre race hydration really helped me, because I felt very strong through much of the first 7-8 miles while maintaining a strong pace.

I’ll continue to drink a lot the next few days and also complete my regular recovery regime (proper nutrition, short runs, massage, etc).  I expect that the renewed focus on hydration will be a big plus for my recovery and to start my training for the next race (Portland, OR Shamrock Run 15k on March 13th)

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By Nuun Guest Bloggers Jesse Kropelnicki and Jaime Windrow of The Core Diet.

 

One of the many concerns I hear from my athletes is, “I can’t seem to drink while running, what is the best strategy?”  The answer to that question is whatever way works for you is the best!  The important aspect is just getting those fluids and electrolytes down, and to practice that method day in and day out.

Why do I need to hydrate during a training run?

The goal is to not only stay hydrated and fueled for the workout you are currently performing, but also to prepare the body for the future workouts in days to come. Yes, a runner can “make it through” a 60-minute tempo run without fluids and fuel, but did that runner perform to the best of her or his ability given that their performance can be impacted with a 2 percent dehydration factor? Probably not. And that runner will then enter into the next day’s run already dehydrated before the workout even started. Most of us have higher goals than to just “make it through,” and proper hydration is directly correlated to performance.

Our bodies also need hydration training! We need to practice hydration during training runs to train the gut to be able to handle what our body may require on race day.  Athletes can’t expect their body to magically be able to handle their race fueling on race day with out regular practice of it in training.

What are my options for hydrating during runs?

  • Hide fluids with electrolytes along the course you are running.
  • Design an out-and-back run from wherever you can store fluids with electrolytes such as your car or home.
  • Carry your own fluids with electrolytes in one of the hydration carrying systems below:

Handheld:

This consists of a bottle that is much smaller than your standard 24 oz. bike bottle.  The shape of it makes it easier to hold and they usually have an adjustable strap so you do not have to consciously hold onto it.  You can find them with or without neoprene insulation and pockets for storing a gel and Nuun tube, cash or a key.

Advantage: Easy to refill and not much extra weight.

Disadvantage: You can only carry a small amount of water or sports drink and will need a water source to refill if going out for longer training runs.

Waist Pack:

This system attaches around your waist and consist of one to two standard bottles or multiple smaller “flask” style bottles such as Fuel Belt.   Most have some sort of storage pocket for performance fuels or small miscellaneous items.

Advantages: You can carry a larger amount of fluids for longer runs but you have the option to bring less.  This option is also good for those that prefer hands free.

Disadvantages: When all bottles are filled, there is quite a bit of extra weight that takes getting used to.

Backpack:

A bladder carrying system that rests on your upper/mid back.  Attaches similar to a traditional backpack, hence the name, but much smaller. A small hose connects to the “bladder” filled with sports drink or water and attaches near the shoulder area which allows the runner to take a swig when needed.

Advantages:  You can carry large amounts of water such as 70 or 80 ounces and there is much more room for fuels and other items.

Disadvantages: When filled, this system adds quite a bit of weight you have to carry around.  These are ideal for those training or racing ultras or running long distances where there will not be any chance to refill another kind of hydration system.

How much do I need to take in?

Every runner has a different sweat rate that depends on several factors and the more you sweat out, the more you need replace. Using an electrolyte tablet, such as Nuun, with your fluids will ensure your body is making the most of your water to keep you hydrated.

Try weighing yourself before and after training sessions in various weather conditions.  Keep in mind that that 1 pound lost during a workout is equal to 16 oz. of fluid.  This simple test will help you determine your individual sweat rate.

Although we are on the tail-end of the colder months, the summer months will be approaching fast and using an on-board hydration system will only benefit you; especially if you have no access to fluids during your running.  Take this aspect of your training routine seriously, and improve your running and racing in a big way; most importantly, with easy changes….we all like free speed!

 

Nuun provides great-tasting active hydration.

About Nuun

Nuun is a great tasting on-the-go hydration tablet with the electrolytes you need to hydrate and re-fuel, but none of the sugar and junk found in sugary sports drinks. Nuun is available in over 5,000 stores in the U.S. and in over 30 countries. Visit nuun.com to learn more.

About The Core Diet

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite triathlon coach and founder of TheCoreDiet.com, a leading provider of sports nutrition. He coaches professional triathletes Caitlin Snow, Ethan Brown, and Pedro Gomes with quantitative training and nutrition protocols. Track Jesse’s coaching strategies tips on his blog at kropelnicki.com.

Jaime Windrow is a Registered Dietitian and the Nutrition Programs Director at TheCoreDiet.com. Jaime’s interest in sports nutrition began when she danced professionally for 12 years with the Radio City Rockettes, and continued when she began to race in triathlons as an elite amateur. Jamie holds a number of age-group wins and podium finishes, as well as a finish in Kona at the Ironman World Championships.

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