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Hydration and Energy: Tips and Advice
Staying hydrated and energised whilst running is vital for your performance, enjoyment and safety. A large amount of research has gone into understanding the best ways to keep hydrated and as running grows in popularity, there are more and more products available to help runners with their performance.
The way that you decide to manage your own hydration and food consumption is completely down to you. It is vital that you understand the dangers of dehydration as well as over hydration (hyponatremia) and therefore take responsibility for your own wellbeing. The good news however that is with such a wide selection available, responsible runners have never had a better opportunity to control their intake and fine-tune performance.
1. DISSOLVABLE TABLETS
These little tablets quickly dissolve in tap water to give you a much needed boost of electrolytes. Practically free from calories but packed with the salts and minerals you lose whilst exercising, tabs can be used before, during or after exercise. They are also small enough to be carried on longer races and added to water at designated stations. Try keeping a pack close to hand for post workout rehydration.
2. ENERGY GELS
Gels are not designed to replace water. Instead think of them as a type of super concentrated, liquid food. They are usually carbohydrate based with added stimulants such as caffeine but they do come in a number of varieties. Some find them a little hard on the stomach and need to try a few brands to get the right match, but nearly all need washing down with a good mouthful of water. Make sure you regulate your intake carefully to avoid peaking and crashing and don’t forget to hydrate as normal.
Powders come in many forms. Some hydrate, whilst some energise, there are even some that you mix up before bed to aid recovery whilst you sleep. The type of powder that is right for you will very much depend on your own training routine, but many find that a carbohydrate drink before a run can provide energy, whilst a protein based drink can aid recovery. However make sure that you select running specific formulas as some muscle building alternatives can stimulate weight gain and hinder your running.
Chews take on a similar role to liquid gels. Not intended as an alternative to hydration, they are simply a chewy energy boost. Packed full of carbohydrate, sugar, electrolytes and caffeine, their intake must be regulated and like most solid food when exercising, a liberal chaser of water helps digestion and absorption. Some find the energy provided is a little less than in gels, but they still give a welcome boost.
5. ENERGY BARS
The chewing and swallowing of solid food raises obvious problems when running, however for some, they pose a welcome alternative to the sweet shots or gels. They are particularly useful when doing longer runs where you may have to stop and navigate, or as a light pre run boost eaten during the pre-hydration period. For their weight and size they are a great solution to your energy needs and their complex carbohydrates can be longer lasting than the sugars and caffeine found in many energising alternatives.