Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Importance of Electrolytes....

Not a great week for training, but made up for it with a good session yesterday. Following last Sunday's 10km race I didn't do anything on Monday, as I was feeling a bit under the weather and as football training was cancelled on Tuesday night I went for a 5 mile run instead. On Wednesday night I was out with guests for work and on Thursday and Friday I had to work late.

With a few of the usual Saturday morning crowd either off the Island or injured it was left to me and Mike George to brave the elements. As mentioned in an earlier blog we will build up the longer walk by a mile or two each week, but given the weather Mike and I were initially undecided how far to go, especially if it deteriorated any further. Therefore, we decided to head out to Baldwin, so we could cut the length of the walk if needed.

Before I started going out with the group on a Saturday morning a year or two ago, I would quite often head out by myself and do the loop round Baldwin and then do it in reverse the following week. I now know the route like the back of my hand, but I still enjoy it as it has a variety of testing hills and the views are great. It is only in this last couple of years that my walking has significantly improved and apart from being due to improving my general fitness, it is as a result of going out training with a group of quicker walkers. You end up pushing yourself a lot harder and there is a friendly competitiveness. One mistake I use to make was to go out on longer walks without anything to eat and wonder why I would be short of energy, so I now always make sure I have some sort of snack with me.

This leads on to the question of what should you eat and drink during an event like the Parish Walk. Given you could potentially be walking almost constantly for up to 24 hours it needs careful consideration, planning and trying out what works for you beforehand, rather than hoping it works out on the day. During my first two Parish Walk finishes my diet and drinking regime throughout the race was shocking and mainly consisted of jaffa cakes, jelly babies, Mars Bars and bananas, washed down with Lucozade.

I'm certainly no expert on sports nutrition and what works for one person is no good for another, therefore it is important to experiment with different food and fluid combinations on long walks. Eating during an endurance event like the Parish can often by tricky when you are on the move. To maintain sufficient energy levels throughout a race, adequate proportions of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes are essential. Eating too many carbohydrates or not drinking enough fluid can result in cramping, fatigue and will ultimately affect your performance.

Some basic tips are below:

  1. Ensure you are hydrated before you turn up for the start i.e. start taking on liquids a couple of hours beforehand.
  2. Don't drink endless isotonic/energy sports drinks such as Lucozade or Gatorade during the race. They do have their place in an endurance event, but they tend to be too sweet and you may feel a little sick later in the race and it could affect your ability to take on food as well. I tend to use the powder sachets of High Five Energy Source (but watered down more than the recommended level), as they contain carbohydrates, whey protein and electrolytes. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated, so the muscles and nerves can function properly. Since the body is composed mostly of water, it is important that we take in adequate amounts of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphates. When we sweat and lose these vital minerals, we need to replenish, not only with water but with these minerals. If we combine intake of fluids with electrolytes, we will actually hydrate quicker, as water follows electrolytes. Dioralyte can also be used to ensure hydration and electrolyte levels are maintained
  3. Load up on carbohydrates a few days before, on the lead up to the event. A pre-race meal should consist of high energy foods like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit and vegetables and lean sources of protein.
  4. Take on small amounts of food on a regular basis. The best and most natural way of replenishing electrolytes is from food. In fact, sugary sport drinks only provide a quick burst of minerals, but deplete the body over time. Easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods such as a banana or granola bar are ideal, but bearing in mind that during the time you will do the Parish Walk (without evening considering the extra energy you will expend) you would normally eat 3 or 4 meals, this won't be sufficient. As I pointed out earlier my diet during my first couple of Parish Walks was poor, but more recently I have tried to vary what I eat and a lot of it is down to trial and error. Last year I ate a fair amount of fruit in the early stages such as dried apricots, bananas and melon and later on I ate mash potato and gravy as it was easy to digest and also salty, so kept the sodium levels up (some of the top walkers swear by soup, with sweet potato being a favourite, so something I plan to try as well this year). Towards the end of race I did fall back on the jelly babies, but at that stage I just needed them for short bursts of energy.
  5. Make sure your support team are fully briefed beforehand on your eating and drinking requirements. In the early stages of the race you will probably be telling your support exactly what you want and when you need it, but after you get past half-way it is easy to lose track of what you are consuming, so it is important they know your plans and essentially they recognise the signs if you are not taking on enough fluids or food. As it is often said, if you start feeling really thirsty then the chances are you are already dehydrated. Similarly, if you don't take on food you will 'hit the wall' and it will take a while to recover your energy levels and wreck your chances of achieving whatever objective you have set yourself.
  6. As part of the the post-race recovery it's important to take in carbohydrates as soon as your body will allow, this enhances glycogen replacement. Try something like a fruit smoothie, chocolate milk drink, banana, or yogurt. Taking on a protein shake is also important as it helps repair exercise-induced muscle damage.
Back to training - this Saturday Mike and I started at a fairly sedate pace and slowly started to wind it up as we headed towards Mount Rule on the way to West Baldwin. Turning right just before Injebreck Reservoir we ploughed up the hill and past St Luke's Church. Rather than turning left to East Baldwin we decided to go straight on and back down to West Baldwin and retraced our steps to do a quick loop, past Injebreck and St Luke's Church again and then finally down to East Baldwin. It was at this point that someone must have strapped a rocket to Mike as he shot off at a ridiculous pace. When I got home I looked at my Garmin watch and I had covered that mile (admittedly it was mainly flat or downhill) in 8 minutes and 3 seconds and Mike had pulled out a decent gap on me at the time!

After that exertion we 'strolled' up to Onchan and the rain started to get a bit heavier, so it was a relief to head back in to Douglas. By the end we had covered 14.9 miles in 2 hours 31 minutes on a fairly hilly route, so I was pleased with the walk given our reticence at the start. After a nice hot shower to warm up (and a protein shake!) I went into town to pick up a few bits before having lunch and settling down in front of the TV to watch the Man U v Liverpool game. I won't gloat about the score Ed - as it will probably come back and bite me on the arse at a later date!

Today's vets game against Braddan was cancelled as the pitch was unplayable due to the rain over the last couple of days, so I ended up going round to my godson's 8th birthday party for coffee and cake. Settling down now for a relaxing evening and to watch the Hangover 2. Bye for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment