By Brooke Schohl, MS RD
Climate can pose some interesting challenges when it comes to racing. Whether you’re going from a hot, dry climate to a cool one or vice versa, you will need to make some adjustments to your fueling and hydration strategy. Help prepare your body with these tips.
1) Hydration is vitally important year round; however, heat and humidity require greater fluid intake than cooler climates as your sweat rate increases. Research the location of your race and prepare properly by increasing fluids if you are racing in heat/humidity. An excellent indicator of hydration status is urine color. If your urine is lemonade colored, you’re good. If it’s apple-juice colored, better drink up! A general rule of thumb is 16-24 ounces of fluid per hour. This number could go up or down depending on climate.
2) Electrolytes go hand-in-hand with fluid. If you’re increasing fluids consumed, electrolytes must be reciprocated. In heat, your sweat rate is increased and you are losing precious sodium via sweat faster than you can snap your fingers. Electrolytes must be replaced quickly to keep the body in check and muscles functioning efficiently. Be careful though — increasing salt intake drastically from one climate to the next can create GI distress and other unpleasant effects. Gradually increase electrolyte intake during training to match what you will require on race day. Electrolyte supplementation can be achieved in a variety of ways, through “real” food sources like bananas and pretzels, with sports drinks/powders, through Salt Stick or Hammer Endurolyte capsules, and via sports products like gels, chews and bars.
3) Racing Fuel Type: The foods you train with in 45-degree January weather may or may not cut it in 90-degree March weather. The solution? Have alternatives. Try out many different fuel types during training — sports drinks, powders, sports gels/chews, bars and real food items. Don’t try new things on race day; reserve the experimentation for training.
Much of the fun and the frustration of race day is the unknown. Many things are out of your control, and let’s be honest, that’s part of what makes crossing that finish line so darn impressive. What you can manage is your fueling preparation and experimentation during training. Research your upcoming race — the average temperatures, the humidity, the types of fuel available on the course — and use that information as a starting point. This preparation points you toward a successful race day, regardless of conditions!