Proper Fueling, Hydration Vital

Editor’s Note: George Frazier, manager at CentreTown Fitness in Wheeling, and his staff will be providing a series of training articles leading up to the 38th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic, scheduled for May 24 in Wheeling.

One of the most important pieces of training advice that I can give every participant in this years’ Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon and 5K Run/Walk is to learn how to be properly fueled and well hydrated in order to achieve a successful performance on race day. I have competed in 33 of the 37 races now associated with the history of this great event and I can attest to the importance of hydration and proper fuel (food choices) from an educated point of view and personal experience.

Not fueling up before you compete is like driving a car on empty: You won’t have enough energy to maximize your performance and you may run out of gas before the finish. Ideally, fuel up about two hours before the event and follow these three rules:

  • Hydrate with water.
  • Eat healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereal (with low-fat, skim, almond or coconut milk), whole grain toast (without fatty cream cheese), low-fat or fat free yogurt and a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana.
  • Avoid saturated fats and even healthy protein prior to the race, as these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away energy-delivering blood from your muscles. The key is to consume easily digestable carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish.

Nothing affects your performance or your health more than hydration. Hydration is a crucial factor in your ability to sweat and maintain a stable body temperature, pump blood to your working muscles, metabolize stored fat and rid your body of toxins that accumulate during exercise. Proper hydration also keeps your skin moist to protect it against bacteria, viruses and premature aging.

A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. If you exercise, you need to drink that amount plus an additional amount depending on intensity and duration of exercise. This means plain water or properly mixed energy drink only. Caffeine and alcohol beverages, although they are liquid, have a diuretic effect and can actually dehydrate you. Sweetened fruit juices and sodas do not adequately contribute to hydration due to their excessive sugar content.

Most people don’t drink anywhere near half of their body weight in ounces of water daily (and that’s if they’re not exercising). Studies show that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Prevent dehydration: drink before you are thirsty.

Some of the early signs of dehydration may include dark urine, small volume of urine, going a long period of time without urinating and an elevated heart rate.

The more serious effects of dehydration may include an increase in body temperature, impaired performance, gastrointestinal problems, heat exhaustion (skin feels cold and clammy), hallucinations or even circulatory collapse. Dehydration can be a very serious problem or can even result in death.

Follow these two basic guidelines to ensure that you are drinking enough water and you are adequately hydrated:

  • Clear urine: Your urine should be nearly clear when you are optimally hydrated.
  • Weight before and after exercise: Weigh yourself before and after you exercise. You should weigh the same, indicating you drank what you lost in sweat. Remember, losing weight during exercise is just temporary water loss and will inhibit fat burning in the hours after exercise, when most permanent weight loss occurs.

The weather for the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon and 5K Run/Walk is usually very hot and humid, so it is very important to follow the advice for proper hydration during all of your training sessions and especially the day of the events. The key to good hydration is to take advantage of the early water stations along the route and continuing to ingest fluids throughout he race. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids after you cross the finish line until your body cools down and you feel well hydrated. Also, healthy proteins along with carbohydrates should be consumed after the race to promote tissue repair and to grow your muscles. These steps will insure a good and healthy recovery from race day.

Proper hydration and healthy food choices are important for good training practices and healthy living. Pay attention to your body and choose wisely.