Alongside pacing and foot care, hydration is one of the most important factors behind the success at the Grand to Grand Ultra and Mauna to Mauna Ultra.
Luckily, it’s something you can get ahead of before you arrive in the desert, simply by gaining a better understanding of the issues you’re likely to face and by having a plan for how you’ll manage them. Now’s the time to get this right so you’re confident in your strategy come September.
First up, take this free online Sweat Test to get personalised hydration advice tailored to your G2G Ultra and M2M Ultra training/race.
Personalising your hydration strategy is crucial because everyone loses a different amount of sodium in their sweat (from as little as 200mg of sodium per litre to as much as 2,000mg/l) and this is largely genetically determined. So a “one-size-fits-all” approach to hydration just doesn’t work.
Once you’ve taken the test, you’ll get a series of 2-3 emails breaking down your new hydration strategy and it’s this advice that you should put to the test in training for Grand to Grand Ultra and Mauna to Mauna Ultra.
But, here are some general guidelines and tips to help you stay hydrated in training…
Staying hydrated in training
Staying hydrated during training means you'll get more out of your sessions and this will pay dividends when you get out to the desert.
It's not unusual to start sessions mildly dehydrated.
If you run the risk of starting any longer/tougher training sessions dehydrated, drinking a stronger electrolyte drink before you start can help you get the most out of your session.
PH 1500 contains 3x more sodium than typical sports drinks and this extra sodium helps your body absorb and retain fluid more effectively than if you just drink water.
You definitely don’t need to preload before every training session. In fact, most sessions don’t call for it. It’s a tactic for when you have a particularly long/tough session ahead where you’ll be sweating a lot and you think you’d otherwise be starting dehydrated.
Just drinking water to thirst is likely to be all you need during your shorter training sessions (up to about 90 minutes), assuming you’re starting those sessions well hydrated.
Drink electrolyte drinks (or carry some SweatSalt capsules) when you’re…
- training for >90 minutes.
- planning a session where you’ll be sweating a lot. e.g. high-intensity turbo/treadmill sessions.
- training out in hot/humid weather.
- doing >1 workout on the same day.
This will help you replace some of the electrolytes you’re losing in your sweat, leading to better hydration, performance and recovery.
The amount you need to drink should largely be dictated by thirst.
Just how worried should I be about being dehydrated during Grand to Grand Ultra and Mauna to Mauna Ultra?
Whilst hydration is clearly important for maintaining performance, there are a few things to bear in mind…
Getting somewhat dehydrated is almost inevitable
Under the midday desert sun, your sweat rate can be as high as 2-3 litres (64-96oz) per hour, whereas your maximal fluid absorption rate is likely to be only 800ml-1 litre (25-32oz) per hour. You don’t need a maths degree to realise you’re likely to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to fluid loss!
A certain degree of acute dehydration during stages is not necessarily as bad as you might think.
Whilst some widely reported studies in the past suggested that losing as little as 2% bodyweight via dehydration can hamper performance significantly, more recent analysis of athletes in competition settings has shown that many can continue to perform well at 4-6% dehydration, with some elite athletes (such as marathoner Haile Gebrselassie) finishing races in world-class times whilst nearly 10% dehydrated!
This is not to say that dehydration won’t derail your event if you don’t pay attention to the risk, it absolutely has the potential to do so. Just that, when dehydration occurs acutely (and at relatively moderate levels) during exercise it might not be quite as detrimental to performance as was once thought.
How can I maintain my electrolyte levels during Grand to Grand Ultra and Mauna to Mauna Ultra?
You can replace the sodium you lose during the event in a variety of ways and you should make sure you’ve tried and tested anything you plan to do during the event in training first.
Through your food.
Re-hydrated processed foods contain lots of sodium, so things like ration packs are a great way to replenish electrolytes between stages, as is snacking on salty foods during the day.
The obvious downside to this is it’s hard to measure exactly how much you’re taking in and, if your sweat/sodium losses are higher than average, it can be difficult to get enough sodium back in through food alone.
Using the 250mg SweatSalt capsules at the Checkpoints
There will be Precision Hydration SweatSalt capsules at the Checkpoints on the course. These contain 250mg of sodium per capsule, plus the other key electrolytes lost in your sweat. They’re made using sodium citrate, so they’re easier on the stomach than many other salt tabs you may have tried.
If you plan to use some of these during your race then it’s definitely worth testing them out in training. They come in blister-packs, so they’re convenient for using on the move. There’s advice on how to use them in your hydration plan if you take the free Sweat Test.
Carrying your own electrolyte supplements
It’s mandatory to have the ability to carry 1.5 litres (50 oz) of water at a minimum and the race director recommends you carry 2 x 750ml (24oz) bottles, but bladders are acceptable. Carrying your own hydration supplements is also highly recommended as this gives you greater control over when you take on fluids/electrolytes.
Basing your intake on the levels that have worked for you in key training sessions and build up events is likely to be highly effective. This is why devising and optimising your hydration strategy should be high on your priority list over the next few months.
Precision Hydration has a range of zero-calorie effervescent tablets that come in different strengths to match how you sweat. Just take the Sweat Test to find out what strengths might be right for you based on how you sweat and you can refine from there through some good ol’ fashioned trial and error in training.
And don’t forget to use the code G2G to get your first tube/box free!