Hi readers! From time to time I’ve let somebody else write on my blog for a few reasons: They know more than I do, it might be helpful to other runners, and/or I really believe in & use their product for my own training. Today’s guest blogger is all three – a nutritional support of mine SaltStick. I’ve used them for years before they started supporting my training/racing and really like how balanced their products are – no gut-rot or headaches! I hope you take something away for your own running!
Regular readers of Adam’s blog will know he recently completed a stunning feat of endurance by running the Four Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells formation in Aspen, Colorado. Four passes over 12,000 feet (one of them in pouring rain) is a great achievement, and we have been thrilled to play a small part in Adam’s journey by providing SaltStick Caps to help keep him hydrated.
If any of you have been inspired by Adam to take on a fall running challenge, it will help to know the basic ways your nutritional needs will change in the cooler, dryer weather. To help out, this blog post provides five ways to adapt your nutrition for fall training.
- Make Sure You Eat Enough:
Training depletes the body in three main ways: Loss of water, loss of electrolytes and loss of calories. Athletes need to replace losses in each category to maintain optimal energy output. Your sweat rate — and, thus, your losses of water and electrolytes — will vary widely with the changing temperatures and humidity (more on this below). However, caloric output remains more stable across temperatures.
One mistake endurance athletes make is not eating enough during colder weather workouts, especially if they’ve spent the previous summer refueling largely through liquid-based caloric sources. Your need for water will decrease, but you will need to find ways to supplement any lost calories resulting from diminished sports drink intake. This can include sports chews, gels or even dried fruit such as raisins and dates.
Of course, you’ll need to be careful not to swing too far the other way. Contrary to popular belief, cold-weather running doesn’t burn significantly more calories than warm-weather workouts. “Unless you’re running through snow or mud, you’re not burning any more calories than when you run in any other season,” writes Paul Moore in Triathlete Magazine.
The bottom line is you want to keep things more or less the same as they have been during the summer: Eat enough, but not too much.
- Drink Enough Water, Even Though You Won’t Feel As Thirsty:
Your body will undergo several changes as it adapts to colder weather, including reducing its sweat rate. Also, because your core temperature will not increase as much as it did in summer, you won’t need to sweat as much. Thus, your overall water intake should decrease.
However, similar to caloric intake, make sure not to overdo it by relying on thirst alone. In 2004, the University of New Hampshire’s Robert Kenefick published a cold weather study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Kenefick asked participants to exercise on treadmills in cold chambers and found participants’ thirst sensation were reduced by as much as 40 percent. Kenefick concluded this is due to our bodies naturally decreasing outward blood flow in order to maintain the warmth of vital organs. Consequently, our brains are slower to become aware of a temperature decrease in our extremities and, as a result, the hormones that signal our kidneys to conserve fluid are not released at the same rate they would be in warmer weather.
“This can all add up to as much as an eight percent drop in fluid body mass during periods of high activity in cold weather,” Kenefick said. “To put that in perspective, symptoms of mild dehydration start to show after just a two percent loss in body fluids.”
In other words, you can be fooled into thinking you’re not dehydrated because your body’s thirst mechanism is hampered in cold weather. There’s some level of trial and error involved in hydration, but be sure to pay attention to things like fatigue levels, sweat rates, urine color and body weight to help determine your optimal hydration needs — not thirst alone.
- Don’t Forget to Replace Electrolytes:
“[In winter, you should] monitor your water and salt intake, and take some vitamin D to keep a nutritional balance,” ultrarunner John Flynn told us last year in our blog post “10 Tips, Routines and Techniques for Winter Training from Endurance Experts. “I like to really get a lot of Vitamin C this time of year as well, either from citrus or supplements; it helps fight off the cold and flu stuff. Remember just because it’s cold outside you still warm up and sweat a lot. Keeping everything in balance will make you feel happy and healthy all winter long!”
John is right when he says that you need to replace water and electrolytes, which are both lost through sweat. In 2015, researchers at Researchers at Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) in Spain compared two groups of triathletes: Group 1, which hydrated through water and sports drinks, and Group 2, which added SaltStick Caps to the mix. The researchers found that Group 2, which supplemented with SaltStick to replace 70 percent of sodium lost through sweat, finished a half-Ironman race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) in an average of 26 minutes faster than Group 1. The increase in speed usually came from improved cycling and running times, which come later in the race after electrolyte levels begin to decline.
Electrolytes do make a difference in performance. In all temperatures, including cold weather, we suggest an intake of 1-2 SaltStick Caps per hour, though usage depends on your unique physiology, training, and conditions.
- Eat Seasonally:
People often find it easier to stay fit and lose weight during the summer for a variety of reasons (warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours, etc.), including the abundant availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. From grilling kabobs to giant summer salads, it’s easy to keep a healthy diet when the farmer’s market is bursting with healthy colors.
Be sure to keep up the momentum in the fall. Fresh produce is a requirement for any healthy athlete’s diet, as it serves as a source of hundreds of nutrients, vitamins and phytochemicals important to your performance and recovery. Health.com has a great gallery of fall season produce, showing there’s no reason not to include plenty of plants in your breakfasts, lunches and dinners during the next few months.
If you’re debating what kinds of meals to create, just think “Thanksgiving.” While tomatoes and strawberries are out of season, the richer fruits and vegetables, such as apples, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, squash, and turnips are in their peak. From roasted platters to hearty stews, you won’t be short on inspiration for delicious nutrient-packed meals.
- Head Outside for Lunch:
This is less a nutrition tip and more a lifestyle tip, but it’s worth including. As the temperatures get cooler, the days also get shorter, which means less time spent in the sunlight soaking up Vitamin D. While a summer evening run still includes plenty of sunshine, a late-October run is often nearing the complete darkness.
One workaround is to head outside during lunch, either for a quick walk or for an entire “get away from the office” meal. Get the blood moving and wake up — you’ll be in a better state of mind when you get back.
Also, if you’re struggling to obtain enough Vitamin D during the cloudy winter days, note that SaltStick Caps contain 100 IU Vitamin D, as well as a combination of electrolytes that closely resembles the electrolyte profile lost during activity: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. (For a full list of ingredients and benefits of our products, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about how Vitamin D impacts endurance performance, check out our recent blog post on the topic here.)
Good luck, Adam!
We’re excited to watch Adam as he takes on his next challenge. Stay tuned to his blog for the full account!
For more information on SaltStick, head to saltstick.com. Follow us on social media using the following links:
- Facebook: /SaltStickProducts
- Twitter: @SaltStick
- Instagram: @therealsaltstick
- Blog: saltstick.com/blog
Image from: Pixabay.com