We're delighted to be the Official Hydration Partners of the Impact Marathon Series. It's a great concept supporting great causes and so a big well done for signing up! To help you enjoy the Nepal International Marathon as much as possible, here are some tips to help you stay hydrated...
1) Stay hydrated on the journey over.
Most of you will be flying over to Nepal and it's important to think about staying hydrated right from the start of your trip.
The air inside the cabin of a plane has a humidity level of between 15 and 20 percent, whereas the typical indoor humidity in somewhere like Kathmandu is more like 60-80 percent and this is one reason you tend to 'dry out' when you fly.
The combination of not being able to take liquids through airport security, pricey shops in the departures lounge, and a fear of getting stuck in a long queue for the bathroom the moment the seat beat sign goes off can all contribute to a desire to drink less than we usually would when we're travelling. But it's really important to take steps to stay hydrated to counter the effects of this lower humidity.
Most airports have water fountains and many longer haul aircraft have places you can fill up at so you don’t need to keep asking for bottled water, or wait for meal times. Sodium helps you absorb and retain more of the fluid you're taking in, so adding some to the water in your bottle during your flight can be useful. We all use our lightest (250mg) electrolyte drink when we travel and it's usefulness as a day to day background hydrator is one of the reasons we developed it in the first place (though, obviously it's useful during exercise for people with relatively low sweat sodium concentrations too).
2) Don't over-drink before the race!
Most athletes tend to have one main hydration goal before a race: avoiding dehydration.
This is understandable. Dehydration has been proven to hamper performance and sweat rates can easily exceed the body’s ability to absorb fluid, so starting an event ‘topped up’ makes logical sense.
However, avoiding dehydration in Nepal should not be your only concern, there's a bigger picture to consider when optimising your pre-competition hydration strategy.
Human beings are not camels. We cannot store up vast quantities of fluid for use later on. Once we're fully hydrated the body has to ditch any excess fluids. Many athletes believe peeing a lot is a good thing because we’ve all been told time and time again that producing clear urine in large quantities is a sign of ‘good hydration’.
As a result, many athletes just start drinking a whole lot more in the build up to an event. Ironically, this is most often the case with athletes who tend to suffer with hydration related issues during races. Those who struggle with cramps or headaches have more of a tendency to overcompensate, as they are conscious they must not become ‘dehydrated’. But, simply drinking more and more fluid pre race won’t solve any of those issues; in fact it could make them worse. Read this blog on how to tell if you're dehydrated and remember, don't just force loads of water down when you're out in Nepal. Listen to your body and largely drink to the dictates of thirst. Yes a little more fluid in the final few days is not a bad idea, but don't go crazy with it.
3) Don't just drink plan water. (Electrolytes are important too...).
The main electrolyte found in your sweat is sodium and it's crucial to maintaining your performance over distances and conditions like those you'll be facing in Nepal.
Sodium replacement helps you maintain blood volume, which in turn helps with management of your core temperature and delivery of blood to working muscles and the skin.
Because you lose a relatively large amount of sodium in your sweat, when you’re going at it hard for several hours at a time total sodium loss can be really high. Therefore a reasonable level of supplementation is usually required alongside the fluids you consume in order to keep the body balanced.
The interesting thing about sodium loss in sweat is that it varies dramatically from person to person, with some people losing as little as 0.2g per litre of sweat and others losing near 2.0g per litre! This means that different athletes need to take in very different amounts of sodium when sweat output is high. This variance in sweat sodium loss is largely down to genetics. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to electrolyte supplementation doesn’t work.
Read this blog for more on exactly why sodium is so important.
4) Consider the impact of altitude (but avoid the common myths).
The maximum altitude of the Nepal International Marathon is 2,300m so although you might notice the slightly thinner air, it's not high enough for altitude sickness to kick in. Altitude is worth being aware of though, particularly as most of you are trekking in Nepal before/ after the Race Week and will likely reach heights above 3,500m.
Hydration is important at altitude, but it won't prevent altitude sickness. Rather unhelpfully, the symptoms of dehydration are quite similar to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). In addition, your lungs have to humidify the air you breath, which requires more water in the dry air found at high altitude. This means it is almost certainly the case that you will need to take on more fluid than you're used to drinking when you run at home.
But, bear in mind that somewhere in the region of one litre per hour is about the maximum most people can realistically absorb through the gut whilst exercising, so for most people it's unlikely you'll benefit from consuming more than this. That's why preloading on sodium before a race can be so beneficial, but more on that below.
Whilst we're on the topic of altitude, just a few notes away from hydration...
Nutrition becomes increasingly important when exercising at higher altitude. Rising stress hormone levels in response to lower oxygen levels place a higher demand for fuel on your body. As resting metabolism rates increase, athletes need to add to their caloric intake. Moderately increasing carbohydrate intake is helpful in replacing glycogen stores in your body after training and compensating for the increased caloric demand at altitude.
Oh, and be advised that physical fitness offers no protection from altitude illness. In fact, many young fit athletes drive themselves too hard at altitude prior to acclimatising, thinking they can push through the discomfort. They ignore signs of altitude illness thinking it can't affect them because they are very fit and healthy. Everyone, regardless of fitness, is potentially susceptible to AMS. So it's important to acclimatise before your race, which luckily you'll be doing in the awesome week you'll be enjoying before the race!
5) Personalise your hydration strategy
Our free online Sweat Test can give you personalised recommendations based on how you sweat, but here are some guideline recommendations based on our experience of helping athletes stay hydrated in climates like those you'll be facing in Nepal...
The night before the race:
Drink a 500ml bottle of water containing a stronger electrolyte drink (1500mg/l+) like Precision Hydration 1500.
Take this instead of plain water you’d normally have had the evening before the race, not in addition to it.
There is no need to drink it all in one go, just sip it over 2-3 hours.
The additional sodium in stronger electrolyte drinks like PH1500 helps your body to hold onto more of the fluid you consume meaning you pee less of it out and maximise your blood volume and hydration status for the next day.
The morning of the race:
Drink another 500ml bottle of water containing 1 serving of a strong electrolyte drink like Precision Hydration 1500.
Again, take this instead of plain water you’d normally have had before the start, not in addition to it.
Aim to finish drinking it between 45 and 60 minutes before you are due to begin.
As with taking it the night before, the additional sodium helps your body to hold onto more of the fluid you consume. It does this without lowering your blood sodium levels as can be the case if you just drink lots of plain water.
This means you will pee less and have the capacity to sweat out more without sodium and fluid stores becoming depleted so quickly. Finishing drinking it in good time before you start allows your body to absorb what it can, and for you to pee out any excess before the off.
During the race:
- If you're carrying 2 bottles in an ultra running hydration pack, fill one with just plain water and another with a medium to strong electrolyte solution. Most of our athletes would probably be drinking Precision Hydration 1000 during a race in the conditions found in Nepal. Having a bottle of plain water alongside it allows you to maintain a good fluid/electrolyte balance by listening to what your body is telling you it needs. It also allows you to take in extra sodium fast if needed by chasing down an electrolyte capsule like a SweatSalt capsule.
- If you're carrying a Camelbak, add 1 sachet/tablet of your chosen electrolyte drink per 500ml. Then pick up the odd plain water at aid stations along the course and drink that to thirst.
- If you're not carrying fluids with you during the race, it's a great idea to think about carrying some electrolyte capsules (like our SweatSalts) with you and chasing them down with water at aid stations. If you use our SweatSalts, you'd probably be aiming to take 1-3 of capsules per hour in the second half of your race - taking a higher number if you have a very high sweat rate and/or if you know you lose a lot of salt, and less if you are a less sweaty/salty individual.
We hope these tips help you enjoy the day as much as possible, because you'll have earned it! If you do want to pick up some all-natural electrolytes that match how you sweat to take out to Nepal with you, use the code NEPAL10 to get 10% off your order. That's just our way of saying thank you for supporting IMS and making a difference out there. We're looking forward to hearing some of your stories and seeing all of the photos from the week.