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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Elyte update

The electrolyte update: I tried S!caps for the first time during the half marathon last Sunday. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are really easy to take, even without water. They travelled well with me during the race in a ziplock next to my sweaty skin, no worse for wear. My electrolyte arsenal at this point contains:

S!caps (during events and as needed during recovery)
Vitalyte (supplement the S!caps as more potassium is needed)
Cytomax (during events when protein needs exceed what I can choke down, during recovery when I might not have other nutrition available)

Here’s some notes/observations/thoughts on my electrolyte protocol so far

1. During moderate exercise, once an hour was the recommendation in the product literature. This ended up being perfect for me. I usually start to feel mentally “depleted” around mile 10, and HAVE to have substance before mile 14 or so or I start to get really nauseous. This time I never hit the wall mentally, never had to play mental games with myself to keep going, no nasusa, and although I was hungry near the end , it wasn’t accompanied by that icky feeling. I started with one cap right before the start and continued with one cap every hour until I was done. Right after I was done with the race I drank a packet of vitalytes.

2. Recovery - I wasn’t sure how much electrolytes I needed for recovery after the race and how food would affect my need (and had the fantasy that I could take care of my needs for elytes through food….and once again discovered that is just not reality for me). I ended up needing to pop an S! cap about an hour after the race, and then another one the next morning. It took me 5-10 minutes after taking the S!cap, to feel fine again. I learned that my elyte supplementation needs probably extend ~24 hours post-athletic activity.

3. At one point in the late afternoon I ended up feeling odd and felt like I “needed something”. But it was beyond just an electrolyte need. Cytomax, which up until this point has been undrinkable, actually sounded GOOD, and I drank a packet of that and it was PERFECT. I had had a good combination of fruit and protein post-race, and probably just needed a snack of the same at that point, but I was driving in a rural area and it was nice to have something at hand that I could use to fulfill this need immediately, instead of waiting and feeling sicker, needing the calories+electrolytes+protein etc. Apart from recovery, during longer events I WILL need protein during the event. This can sometimes be problematic, and so I will continue to use Cytomax as part of my elyte arsenal both for recovery as needed, or during longer events.

4. Maintaining proper elyte balance allowed me to make better decisions post-race when it came to refueling and nutrition decisions. I used to go crazy after the race, eating a lot of everything and not really being able to control what I was putting into my body because I would be craving all sorts of different things. I would start feeling not good, and I would just reach for anything that sounded OK – but would always be a little dissatisfied with what I was eating because I still felt “off” and would be looking for something else to eat a short time later. As a result, I was probably consuming an excess of calories, carbs, etc. in my bodies attempt to get the elytes I needed – to the determinant of a quick recovery. After this half marathon it was very easy to just eat what I needed to recover, not feel bloated, and continue to feel good throughout the day and the next.

5. Getting in the habit of listening to my body has expanded beyond just the electrolytes. After the race I ate some banana and orange pieces, but then turned to my mom and said “I need protein”. It was a very clear signal from my body that it needed protein, instead of the muddled signals that I used to get that I needed “something”, but I didn’t know what. In fact, my body sent very clear signals all day: “I need protein”, “I need elytes”, “I need calories”, “I need carbs” – at different parts of the day. It was nice to know exactly what my body needed and to be able to respond BEFORE feeling sick.

In summary, The difference in how I felt during, after and the morning after the event was significantly better than in the past. Elytes make a huge difference, and finding the right combination of products and protocols during activity and during recovery should be a priority.

Horse and human performance physiology is very different, however, here are some questions I’m pondering as I reflect on my elyte experiences:

• How much is the lack of “gas in the tank” at the end of ride related to elyte balance and levels?

• How long into the recovery period should elyte supplementation occur? (for me it’s 24 hours – how about my horse?)

• Could supplementing with elytes outside of food allow the horse to better manage the rest of its nutrition throughout the ride? (for example, let the horse “feel” better whether it needs protein or carbs?).

• What is the role of proactive supplementation as opposed to “reactive” supplementation in endurance competitions?

On a slightly different (but related topic as it deals with nutrition at an event…) I’ve been practicing a relatively low carb, high protein, high fat diet. It’s for a variety of reasons, but in part because I’ve found out that I’m very sensitive to gluten (which probably explains one reason why I feel so crappy at rides – the easiest food to eat at rides tend to be the products that contain wheat, so I eat more of them than usual there….). As I watched my aunt eat a bowel of cereal the morning of the race, I realized that this was going to be an interesting experiment beyond what I was trying with the elytes – gone were my running staples of pasta and cereal.

I had made a point of eating slightly less fat than usual and more carbs (in the form of fruit etc.) at dinner in prep for the race, but it was a far cry from my typical pre race pasta meal…..I simply ate ½ an avocado for breakfast and admit I felt a bit apprehensive – would I be able to finish the event?

The results surprised me – although I was hungry when I finished, I wasn’t famished and subject to cravings. My energy levels throughout the race stayed very consistent, and although it would have been really nice to see some sort of fruit at the aid stations near the end, it wasn’t a devastating blow to realize I was going to have to wait until the finish line to eat something. Apparently, I don’t need copious amounts of calories before and during a 3 hour event and perhaps some of my high carb binging habits before/during/after races were actually more detrimental than helpful.

It is hard to completely seperate what were the consequences of my elyte protocols and how much is due to the change in my diet, but the bottom line is I was relatively physically unprepared for this event. BUT, because I was balancing nutrition and elytes, I performed and recovered far better than during events when the equation was reversed. (ie focus on the physical preparation and lax nutrition and elytes).

1 comment:

  1. Glad you liked the S! Caps too. They get me through hot humid TX rides, and Tevis


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