There is no substitute for hydration as it is an integral aspect of your performance while running a marathon. A common misconception doing the rounds is that you need to drink huge amounts of water before the race, even if it means you feel bloated and uncomfortable. That is why it is important to distinguish between facts and incorrect information before trying anything.
Overdoing it before & during the race
As already mentioned, runners tend to act on the myth that guzzling water or sports drinks right before a race means they can store the fluids in their bodies, draw energy from them, and also eliminate chances of dehydration during the race. However, our body doesn’t work like a storage unit where every component is crammed in – there is a certain limit up to which you can consume fluids that can be used for hydration, but beyond that, the excess amounts will end up in your bladder. You will feel the need to visit the bathroom often, and also get a “bloated feeling”. For several years, this particular piece of information was drilled into the minds of runners – if they get dehydrated even slightly, it will affect their performance negatively, while boosting the risks for heat illnesses (caused from exertion). That is why they were asked to drink as much as they could to avoid dehydration. As the human body is unable to absorb so much fluid during running, the stomach experiences a lot of jostling on the run, which might lead to gastrointestinal distress in runners who try to force down fluids. Don’t listen to anyone offering advice – drink in moderate amounts just to quench your thirst before the race starts. Keep the fluid intake to a minimum during the race to avoid frequent toilet visits.
If you belong to the group of runners with strong stomachs who can drink almost all kinds of fluids, then good for you, but if you fall among those with sensitive stomachs, you need to be extremely careful about what you can consume. For instance, your friend has recommended some sports drink that can improve your times like never before, and asks you to try it just before the race. What do you do? Steer clear from it right away! If at all you want to check its effectiveness, do so while the training is going on. What should you do if that sports drink upsets your stomach? Try it once or twice to see if you can tolerate it better with time. If it still doesn’t work, switch to what you were drinking before. The same goes for any gels or other products that you have never tried – experimentation should be done during the training or after the race so you can utilize it while preparing for next time. Don’t take any chances with your current race!
Using caffeine without a prior caffeine fast
The primary function of caffeine is to alter brain chemistry so that it reduces perceived effort, which is determination of the effort needed to run at a certain pace. Thus, it helps to improve endurance during running. However, this technique will work only if you are not a regular coffee drinker or you utilize it in other forms. In case you wish to try it, you need to be caffeine-free for at least a week before the event to enjoy the performance-enhancing effect of taking caffeine on race morning.
Many studies have been conducted in this aspect. The results show that drinking fluid during race-type efforts does not improve performance unless the time period stretches for an hour or so. The threshold can sometimes be as high as 90 minutes.
Hydrate consistently throughout the day by drinking water with each meal so the effect is balanced.
Urine color pre-training sessions can be used to know about hydration status. If the color is darker than usual, you need to drink one to two cups of water before the training session begins.
New ways for hydration on the race day are a strict no-no. It might backfire and affect your performance.
Outline a plan for hydration when the D-Day approaches. Whatever plan you formulate, try to stick with it and practice it during training if possible.
It is not a good idea to carry your own drinks while running a marathon. It is unlikely to find someone winning a marathon with a drink belt strapped around their waist or a fluid bladder on their back.
Fluids can be very heavy in terms of weight, and the extra burden will slow you down eventually. There are ample drinks available at aid stations, so if you are thirsty, you know where to go to!
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