The hydration tips you really need on race day

By Antonio Macasieb | Photo by Kate Joie/Unsplash

Racing in the Philippines typically means hot and humid conditions, and there will be a sweet spot with how much water you carry. Too little and you’re in for a miserable experience. Too much will slow you down and put you at risk for hyponatremia. Here are some things to think about before race day:

1. Measure How Much You Sweat

You need to stay hydrated to replace what you sweat out. If you have no idea how much fluid you actually lose through sweat, you might be surprised at how much that is after a one-hour workout. With a digital scale, weigh yourself before and after a 60-minute workout in conditions (temperature, humidity, time of day) similar to your race and you’ll get an idea of how much water and electrolytes you need to replace every hour. You might be shocked to learn that in 35-degree weather, the average male loses over one to 1.5 liters of water per hour.

2. Plan and Practice

With a good ballpark estimate of your water consumption, consider your race from start to finish to come up with a strategy specific to your race. During your workout, practice how you would remind yourself to consume water at an even pace. In the heat of a race, it’s common to neglect hydration until you’re parched, which, oftentimes, is already too late. In practice, you can also check if you’re comfortable absorbing the amount of water you’re taking in.

With a digital scale, weigh yourself before and after a 60-minute workout in conditions (temperature, humidity, time of day) similar to your race and you’ll get an idea of how much water and electrolytes you need to replace every hour. You might be shocked to learn that in 35-degree weather, the average male loses over one to 1.5 liters of water per hour

Aid station layout will affect your strategy. Some races have too few hydration stations while others have just enough to allow you to run without carrying a bottle. Make sure you know if they’ll be handing out bottles or cups during the race as well. Knowing the actual brands and if possible specific formulations of sports drinks provided at the aid stations allows you to train with these products to see how well your body and your gut react to them.

Topography can be a factor as well. In certain races where there challenging uphill climbs early on in the race, carrying more bottles than you need until the next hydration station is just dead weight.

3. Gear Up

There’s a gamut of gear you can use to tailor to your needs. Runners in long-distance unsupported races should consider fuel belts, bottle holders, and hydration backpacks. On the bike, a variety of mounting positions and bike frames allow you to carry fluids in a  comfortable manner.

4. Drink Up

When you sweat, your body loses more than just water. Minerals like sodium, magnesium, and potassium are also flushed out, which are important for your muscular and nervous system to properly function. Any significant deficiency can affect your performance. Products like SOS Rehydrate and salt sticks or tablets are portable and easy-to-use, low-calorie supplements designed to replace exactly what you sweat out.

All the focus, effort, and commitment you’ve put into weeks of training can go down the drain with poor preparation. Planning your nutrition and hydration properly for race day is the capstone to your training and conditioning. Considering these often neglected but critical factors can make the difference between a new personal record and a tough day on the field.