The question of overall performance hydration is something I have already addressed, so the point of this article is to provide some counsel around hydrating specifically during a race.
The first piece of advice I will offer is that if your event is less than an hour, you do not need to hydrate while you run. In fact, most individuals should perform optimally for up to 90 minutes without requiring a mid-race tipple. If sufficient hydration is achieved in the days and hours leading up to a race of shorter duration, it’s best you don’t even drink during the race. The very mild loss of body water (and therefore body weight) has actually been associated with increased performance, compared to those who add weight (and time) by stopping to drink. Just think light is fast.
Sourced straight from a young coconut, this sweet water is a wonderful source of potassium, magnesium, simple sugars and – quite crucially – sodium. Unless you’re running an event around the tropical island of Rarotonga though, I don’t expect you’ll have an abundance of green coconuts on the sideline, nor the means to quickly and effectively open them. I mention the real deal because the coconut water you get in bottles on the shelves at your local supermarket is somewhat nutritionally different. The major difference is that the sodium in these packaged products is much lower than it is straight from the source. This is to do with the processing and age of the coconut water that gets bottled.
Sodium content is an especially important component of an endurance athlete’s nutritional repertoire during a long and/or hot event. Sodium is lost steadily as you sweat, so needs to be replaced if exertion is to continue. This is exactly why I recommend that you add a pinch of natural Himalayan salt to every 500-750mL of coconut water that you drink on course. That’s a pinch per drink bottle. If you are filling a bladder for your backpack, you’ll need a teaspoon of pink salt in there (even if you’re doing a mix of water and coconut water). Of course, always trial your ratios for taste and to see how well you tolerate them. It’s a golden rule for any race nutrition!
The pros of coconut water go beyond race performance; it’ll amplify your recovery too. This is where the high potassium and magnesium levels are most beneficial, helping to replace electrolyte balance in recovering muscles. Magnesium depletion is a leader in the cause of muscle cramping.
I’m a big advocate for coconut water, not only for the sweet taste and physiological advantages, but also because of how adverse I am to the artificial alternatives that have literally flooded the market for decades now. I will concede that the simple sugars in these ‘formulated’ drinks can sometimes offer assistance, but you won’t catch me drinking them with all of the unidentifiable, unnatural crap that’s added! Quite simply, it’s about eating and drinking real food, sourced from nature. That’s the stuff that your real body – also sourced from nature – recognises and runs best on.
With all of that said, it’s logical that you will probably have a few more questions around race hydration. For example, “when do I choose water over coconut water?”, “what if I don’t like coconut water?” or “why Himalayan salt only?” which are all totally valid queries! You can find the answers to them in our other articles, or you can ask them at our upcoming Eat To Run Webinar.
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