Hydratrion and Training Intake
Our business practices are not the only thing that puts us in the minority. Our reasoned and scientifically backed positions on sodium, hydration, and caloric intake are usually at odds with fad articles in the magazines and what self proclaimed "experts" advocate. To put it bluntly, we are advocating less of all three. I am fully aware that some of us would like to believe the "more is better" crowd when it comes to dietary salt and sugar intake because it allows us to justify our affinity for and habits of consuming too much salt and sugar. Hammer's position, on the other hand, may be seen as "less fun" because we want you to abstain as much as possible from highly salted foods and refined sugar. Massively reducing your dietary salt and sugar intake is the easiest and cheapest way to improve your performance and your health, especially in the heat. I wish I could make it more sexy or more of a mystery, but I can't. High sodium diets lead to high perspiration rates, excessive mineral losses, cramping, and worse. If you really want to be able to handle the heat in training and on the big race day, REDUCE your dietary salt intake! There's the million dollar secret, for free. Once you get a handle on your salt and sugar intake, it's time to work on reducing your wheat intake, replacing it with more rice and whole grains. Finally, reduce your dairy intake to a few ounces a day of raw/organic milk or cheese and you'll be setting PR's right and left, you'll feel better, and you'll be minus those last 5-10 pounds that just never seem to want to come off. Trendy or not, we have always and will always advocate a whole foods-based diet and a minimalist approach to fueling before and during exercise.
Hydration is yet another area where we tend to be swimming upstream, pun intended. While most advocate drinking freely while exercising, they make no mention of adequate hydration levels in your daily life. We, on the other hand, advocate just the opposite, not to be contrary, but because it only makes sense - living in a state of constant dehydration and then trying to super hydrate in the few days leading up to an event, or just during the event, is illogical. Maintaining adequate fluid levels in the body at all times and hydrating in moderation during exercise is just common sense. How much you should consume in each case is also not a mystery and is not very hard to figure out. For your daily life, you want to consume around 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight everyday (e.g. a 160-pound athlete should consume 80 ounces of water per day). Coffee and other beverages do not count. What you consume during training also does not count. Lightly steeped tea, on the other hand can be counted. When exercising, no matter how hot and/or humid it gets, 24-28 ounces per hour is the upper limit, and in the case of smaller athletes and cooler temps, the level of intake can and should be reduced from there. A strong word of caution : If you have been consuming far less than 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water, you should not suddenly and dramatically increase your water intake. This will result in premature elimination of critical minerals. To get from where you are now to where you want to be, increase your water intake by only around 20-25% per week. If you are at 30 ounces per day now and want to get to 80, go to 40 for a week, then 50 for a week, then 60 for a week, and so on until you reach your goal. So no, hydration is not really a mystery either, but the correct approach is not always the most popular because, much to my surprise, many of you don't like to drink water at all. Again, you may not "like" to drink lots of water all day, every day, but the rewards are huge and it's another really cheap way to drastically improve your performance and health.
The importance of drinking sufficient amounts of water
Doing this (drinking a gallon of water daily), I discovered that I felt much better, on both training and non-training days. Also, I learned (and am still learning) the importance of water intake. Water makes up about 60% of your bodyweight. About 75% of that comprised in all muscle tissue and about 10% in fatty tissue. It has numerous important functions in the body, the biggest of which is sustaining life. Other “jobs” include regulating body temperature, cushioning vital organs, aiding in the digestive process, transporting nutrients in and waste out, amongst others. We’ve all heard the “drink eight glasses of water a day” recommendation. Sure, that’s better than nothing, even better than three or six a day. For some of you, this may be pretty close, for others, not so close. A more accurate conversion is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.5-0.6 (oz per pound of bodyweight). This information can be found in an article that I mention later in this writing. For me that means roughly 190 x 0.6 = 114 oz daily. Note that there are 128 oz in a gallon. So according to this, I’m drinking 14 oz more than the calculation suggests. Not a significant over-shoot. Keep in mind that this is what is suggested for me on a “normal” day and does NOT include what I should be consuming during training efforts.
In periods of exertion, additional amounts may be needed due to what is lost through your body cooling itself (a.k.a. sweating). How much more? Good question. A great answer is located on the Hammer Nutrition website under the “Knowledge” link at the top of the page. From there, click the “Advanced Knowledge” button. The article that you are looking for is titled “Hydration - What you need to know.” It should be the second link listed. Everyone is different and will need to practice a routine and “tweak” it accordingly to fit your individual needs. Too little water can be very detrimental. Cooling functionality is interrupted, headaches may occur, dizziness and disorientation can occur, muscle fatigue will occur, and in extreme cases, death can occur. It is said that a 3% loss in bodyweight considers you to be dehydrated. A greater percentage loss in bodyweight can lead to more serious consequences, so needless to say, drinking enough fluids is important!
On the flip side, you can over-hydrate as well, which can lead to seriously negative consequences for both athletic performance and general health. When you consume too much water you basically “flood” yourself. At the very least, this can flush out electrolytes and other important minerals that your body needs to function properly. The end result of over-hydration—especially during exercise—is almost always problems such as bloating, nausea, and cramping. Severe cases of overhydration may lead to death, which has unfortunately happened to a few athletes. So while you want to make sure that you’re consuming sufficient amounts of water, it’s vital that you do not overdo it.
Fluid intake guidelines
There are three things that we at Hammer Nutrition suggest to ensure that you’re consuming the appropriate amounts of fluids:
1. During exercise, keep fluid intake between 16-28 ounces per hour. As stated in the hydration article: “Based on the available research, along with the thousands of athletes we have monitored, we have found that 20- 25 oz/hr (approx 590-740 ml/hr) is an appropriate fluid intake for most athletes under most conditions. For lighter weight athletes, or those exercising in cooler temperatures, 16-18 oz/hr (approx 473-532 ml) may be perfect. Heavier athletes or athletes competing in hotter conditions may consider intakes upwards of 28 oz/hr (approx 830 ml/hr). We also suggest that to avoid dilutional hyponatremia, fluid intake should not routinely exceed 28 oz/hr (830 ml/hr). The exceptions are heavier athletes, athletes exercising at extreme levels (prolonged periods at a high percentage of VO2Max), and athletes competing in severe environmental conditions. 20-25 oz (approx 590-740 ml) is the equivalent of the typical regular-to-large size water bottle, and that’s an excellent gauge to work within.”
2. Aside from the fluid you’re consuming during exercise, drink sufficient amounts of water throughout the rest of the day. As mentioned earlier, 0.5 - 0.6 fluid ounces per pound of body weight makes a more accurate standard than the "one-size-fits-all” recommendation of eight glasses a day. Multiplying your body weight in pounds by .5 to .6 will give you the figure, in fluid ounces, that you should aim for daily.
3. Increase your fluid intake gradually! If you find that your fluid intake during exercise and/or throughout the day is inadequate (as based on our recommendations), you must increase your consumption gradually until you reach your target amount. If you increase your fluid intake too quickly— whether it’s during exercise, throughout the day, or both—this will overwhelm your body with too much fluid too soon, which definitely increases the potential for the negative consequences mentioned earlier. Two examples:
•Don’t go from 30 ounces a day to 100 ounces a day “cold turkey.” Increase your intake gradually over the course of several weeks. Additionally, make sure that your fluid intake is spread throughout the entire day (e.g., don’t drink your daily total in the morning and not drink anything the rest of the day).
•Don’t drink excessive amounts of fluid during exercise. As is stated in one of the articles on the Hammer Nutrition website: “If you override your internal mechanisms, you'll find out the hard way how your body deals with excess water intake during intense exercise. Unless you enjoy nausea, bloating, and DNFs, forget advice like ‘drink to replace’ or ‘drink even when you're not thirsty’—it's just plain wrong.”
Depending on a number of factors (such as body size and length/intensity of the workout), consume 30-90 grams of complex carbohydrates and 10-30 grams of protein (a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) immediately after workouts
10. Improper pre-workout/race fueling
Far too often, athletes put themselves at a metabolic disadvantage during a workout or race by fueling improperly prior to it. The article PROPER FUELING - Pre-workout & race suggestions* discusses this in greater detail, but we mention it here as well because it's definitely one of the biggest fueling errors that athletes make. It's also one that is easy to remedy. Let's look at the three primary factors:
1.Over-consuming food the night before a race or workout in the hopes of “carbo loading” – It would be nice if you could maximize muscle glycogen stores the night before a race or tough workout; unfortunately, human physiology doesn’t work that way. Increasing and maximizing muscle glycogen stores takes many weeks of consistent training and post-workout fuel replenishment. Excess consumed carbohydrates the night before will only be eliminated or stored as body fat (dead weight).
2.Over-consuming calories in your pre-workout/race meal – The goal of pre-exercise calorie consumption is to top off your liver glycogen, which has been depleted during your sleep. Believe it or not, to accomplish this you don’t need to eat a mega-calorie meal (600, 800, 1000 calories or more), as some would have you believe. A pre-workout/race meal of 200-400 calories—comprised of complex carbohydrates, perhaps a small amount of soy or rice protein, little or no fiber or fat, and consumed three or more hours prior to the start—is quite sufficient. You can’t add anything to muscle glycogen stores at this time so stuffing yourself is counterproductive, especially if you’ve got an early morning workout or race start.
3.Eating a pre-race meal at the wrong time – Let’s assume that you’ve been really good – you’ve been training hard (yet wisely) and replenishing your body with adequate amounts of high-quality calories as soon as possible after every workout. As a result, you’ve now built up a nice 60-90 minute reservoir of muscle glycogen, the first fuel your body will use when the race begins. A sure way to deplete those hard-earned glycogen stores too rapidly is to eat a meal (or an energy bar, gel, or sports drink) an hour or two prior to the start of the race.
Don’t go overboard with your food consumption the night before a workout or race. Especially important for races is the adherence of these two rules:
1.Eat clean, which means no refined sugar (skip dessert, or eat fruit), low or no saturated fats, and no alcohol.
2.Eat until you’re satisfied, but not more.
If you’re going to have a meal the morning of your workout or race, you need to eat an appropriate amount of calories (don’t overdo it), and finish all calorie consumption at least three hours prior to the start of the workout or race. If that’s not logistically feasible, have a small amount (100-200 calories) of easily digested complex carbohydrates 5-10 minutes prior to the start. Either of these strategies will help top off liver glycogen stores (which again, is the goal of pre-exercise calorie consumption) without negatively affecting how your body burns its muscle glycogen.
Overcompensating in the days leading up to a race
Far too many athletes overdo it in terms of calorie, fluid, and salt consumption in the days leading up to a race, thinking they’re getting a head start on their fueling needs come race day. Big mistake! Here are the fueling/diet-specific areas to focus on and our recommendations on how to avoid these commonly-made mistakes:
•FLUIDS – Don't drink excess amounts of water in the hopes of getting a head start on your fluid requirements for the race. Consumption of roughly .5 to .6 of your body weight is a good gauge in regards to how much water you should be consuming daily (example: 180-lb/approx 82-kg athletes should drink approximately 90-108 ounces of water daily). However, if you’ve not been following this recommendation consistently, don’t start now, as this will overwhelm your body with too much fluid too soon, which may increase the potential for hyponatremia.
•CALORIES – As discussed earlier, don’t stuff yourself with extra food in the hopes that you're “carbo loading.” The time period for carbohydrate loading (i.e., maximizing muscle glycogen storage capabilities) has, for all intents and purposes, passed. In essence, “carbo loading" is what you did in the 0-60 minutes after all your workouts leading up to the race. That’s when the glycogen synthase enzyme—which controls glycogen storage—is most active, and that’s how you topped off your glycogen stores. Any excess food you eat in the days leading up to the race is either going to be passed through the bowels or stored in adipose cells... neither of those things will benefit you.
•SODIUM – Don’t consume extra sodium (salt) in the hopes that you’ll be “topping off your body stores” prior to the race. Since the average American already consumes approximately 6000 to 8000 mg per day (if not more), an amount well above the upper end recommended dose of 2300-2400 mg/day, there is absolutely no need to increase that amount in the days prior to the race. (Hint: Adopting a low-sodium diet will do wonders for both your health and athletic performance). High sodium intake, especially in the days leading up to the race, is a recipe for disaster because it will greatly increase the potential for disruption of the hormonal mechanisms that control sodium regulation, re-circulation, and conservation. In the days leading up the race, be especially cognizant of the salt content in your foods, especially if you go out to eat. Dining out can easily increase your already-high salt intake dramatically (into double figures!).
On a non-diet/fueling note, avoid the temptation to train too much and/or too close to race day. You will not be able to positively influence your fitness level in the days leading up to the race; however, you can negatively impact your race by training during that time (training meaning anything of significant duration or intensity). As well-known coach Jeff Cuddeback states, " If you think you're going to further your fitness through training the week of your key race, you're sadly mistaken. If you are the type to train right up to the event, you will almost certainly underperform.”
The best performances in long-duration events are achieved by getting to the starting line well rested rather than razor sharp. In doing so, you may find yourself not hitting on all cylinders during those first few minutes. In fact, you might even struggle a bit. However, your body will not forget all the training you've done and it will absolutely reward you for giving it the time it needed to "soak up" all of that training.