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Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

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Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 10:56 am

We all have our own strategies for replacing electrolytes while training. I've never given any thought to the importance of replacing what is lost during a race. I've always been able to "bounce back" extremely quickly - especially as an older runner.

The last month has been a struggle. My mileage is waaaaay down, as I paid attention to things I had to push aside during the final weeks of preparation for Boston. But, whenever I did run, I felt like absolute garbage. I had to shut down a tempo run two weeks ago. A simple LSD paced 10 miler last weekend became difficult to complete. Yes, some detraining has happened, yes, the tree pollen has been at horrible levels since Boston, and yes, summer temps have arrived. But, I shouldn't have been struggling that badly.

On Tuesday, it hit me. I've had plenty of fluids, but I've done nothing to replenish the electrolytes I lost during Boston which, given the post-race cramping that put me in the med tent, were probably significant at the cellular level. I don't drink sports drink, and while we don't follow a decidedly low sodium diet at home, we don't add salt to our meals, either.

So, two days ago I started taking Nuun tablets again. Since my training load has been so light, I didn't feel the need to. And last night, I felt much better on my shakeout run (I have a 12K race tomorrow). My HR isn't where I want it to be, probably because of the detraining, but at least I could push the accelerator down a bit.

Never occurred to me that I needed to deliberately take electrolytes as a part of my post-race recovery. I was counting on my everyday diet, and it didn't work.

Live and learn.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Admin on Fri May 18, 2012 11:17 am

I'm glad that you found something that helps, but you really should not need supplements to replace electrolytes in this manner. Perhaps during/immediately after a race as some people seem to think it helps prevent cramping, but the body has very efficient sodium regulation. There is ample sodium in a normal diet to keep the blood sodium levels in balance.

I won't argue that it's helping you, but I would wonder why. You really should not be sodium-deficient.

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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Jerry on Fri May 18, 2012 11:32 am

So you don't drink German beer after marathon, in that hot day?
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 12:22 pm

@Mr MattM wrote:I'm glad that you found something that helps, but you really should not need supplements to replace electrolytes in this manner. Perhaps during/immediately after a race as some people seem to think it helps prevent cramping, but the body has very efficient sodium regulation. There is ample sodium in a normal diet to keep the blood sodium levels in balance.

I won't argue that it's helping you, but I would wonder why. You really should not be sodium-deficient.

I suspect it's more potassium or magnesium. I've had issues in the past with electrolyte imbalances that boosting sodium intake hasn't fixed.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 12:24 pm

@Jerry wrote:So you don't drink German beer after marathon, in that hot day?

Maybe that's what it was, Jerry. It ended up being a much earlier night than I was planning for, so maybe I just didn't drink enough beer.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Fri May 18, 2012 12:28 pm

Not sure if it is electrolytes although I do use Nuun and coconut water after long runs or hard workouts (track or tempo runs), but a combination of your depletion at Boston and the fact that it was extremely hot that day. I obviously current live in a warm weather climate, but it also took me until this week to really feel like myself running again after Boston, and I know for a fact that Wendy (Miller) is still suffering some side effects (she had heat stroke as well, I believe). Back in 2007 after running the inaugural Georgia marathon on an 80+F day, it took me 5-6 months to feel right. This year, I think I did a far better job of adjusting pace and getting in Gatorade and water throughout the race than I did back then; hence, the quicker recovery but it was still much longer than the week after NY back in November.

I agree with Matt that we don't usually need to go to such extremes, but it cannot really hurt. I would also recommend adding more magnesium and zinc to your diet (mixed nuts is a great source) as both of these ions assist in keeping cramping at bay. I tend to take a Mg/Zn supplement because I was not getting in enough in my regular diet and I sweat profusely. As you know, it isn't jsut salt but a lot of different electrolytes, and unlike Matt, I am betting they are still a bit out of line.

Good luck with the 12K race this weekend, and remember to be smart if you are just not right. We all want you to be able to tell us about it on Monday - no more medical tents. Ok??? Wink


Last edited by Michele "1L" Keane on Fri May 18, 2012 12:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 12:37 pm

@Michele "1L" Keane wrote:Not sure if it is electrolytes although I do use Nuun and coconut water after long runs or hard workouts (track or tempo runs), but a combination of your depletion at Boston and the fact that it was extremely hot that day. I obviously current live in a warm weather climate, but it also took me until this week to really feel like myself running again after Boston, and I know for a fact that Wendy (Miller) is still suffering some side effects (she had heat stroke as well, I believe). Back in 2007 after running the inaugural Georgia marathon on an 80+F day, it took me 5-6 months to feel right. This year, I think I did a far better job of adjusting pace and getting in Gatorade and water throughout the race than I did back then; hence, the quicker recovery but it was still much longer than the week after NY back in November.

I agree with Matt that we don't usually need to go to such extremes, but it cannot really hurt. I would also recommend adding more magnesium and zinc to your diet (mixed nuts is a great source) as both of these ions assist in keeping cramping at bay. I tend to take a Mg/Zn supplement because I was not getting in enough in my regular diet and I sweat profusely. As you know, it isn't jsut salt but a lot of different electrolytes, and unlike Matt, I am betting they are still a bit out of line.

Good luck with the 12K race this weekend, and remember to be smart if you are just not right. We all want you to be able to tell us about it on Moday - no more medical tents. Ok??? Wink

Thanks, Michele. All good suggestions to keep in mind. Maybe I'll pick up a Mg/Zn suppplement, or check into a different multivitamin.

My med tent episode was nothing to write home about. Just bad leg cramping that prevented forward movement. No heat exhaustion or heat stroke or anything like that.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Dave-O on Fri May 18, 2012 12:40 pm

I am far from an expert on nutrition, but it would surprise me to learn that it would take that long to replenish your electrolyte levels.

That being said, I have seen many runners, myself included, struggle to feel "right" for a month or more after a very hot marathon. It definitely does something to your body.

Good luck this weekend.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Schuey on Fri May 18, 2012 1:00 pm

First I have to admit that I'm a little surprised that of all people you won't think about electrolyte replacement after a race. Especially after a hot race even if you feel that your legs recovery well or faster then most.

One of my key things that I spend doing for a week after a hard effort race is make sure I'm taking care of the recovery process and to me that is not just eating balance meals but also thinking about all the little things that need to be done.

Not sure if it makes a difference and since everyone is different one product could work better then another but I personally found better results in using the new Hammer product FIZZ which you put in water like the Nuun. I have spent time testing both and just found that one I like the taste of the different FiZZ flavors more then the Nuun. And I'm a back fan of the Potassium and Magnesium intake especially for less cramping. Since using the FIZZ it has help with the calf cramping issue I seemed to get more often.

Maybe another thought is maybe you need to double the dose you are taking. I know that with the FIZZ they say to use 1 to 2 tablets depending on individual needs. This is also were to me the taste of the FIZZ is much better when I feel I need a double dose due to running in hotter weather.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Julie on Fri May 18, 2012 1:36 pm

I've had issues with low potassium and once it led to a 9 day hospitalization because of how badly it messed my kidneys and a few other things up. I would say try to eat good potassium filled foods, like potatoes and bananas, and don't be afraid to add salt to food once in awhile. I don't try to restrict salt but since I cook almost everything from scratch we don't have that high of a sodium diet, either. I'm glad you found something that worked but I hope you can find enough diet changes so that you don't have to take tablets like that (not like there's a problem with it I would just think it'd be easier to do it through diet).
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  carleenp on Fri May 18, 2012 2:06 pm

I have had issues in hot weather if I didn't up potassium intake for a few days after any hard run. Plus I try to keep that up at all times when it is warm. Otherwise I get heavy legs and sometimes cramps. I started drinking coconut water quite a bit since it is rather high in potassium and can be a decent substitute for a sports drink without any high fructose corn syrup in it.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 2:39 pm

@Schuey wrote: One of my key things that I spend doing for a week after a hard effort race is make sure I'm taking care of the recovery process and to me that is not just eating balance meals but also thinking about all the little things that need to be done.

That's actually a really good point. As I think about it, I did a lot more to recover physcially from Chicago '10 than I did for this one, even though the conditions were more extreme. I think I probably got sidetracked by the mental recovery. Not gonna lie, I'm still struggling with the disappointment following a weekend where nothing really went very well, after years of preparation.

Anyway, the reason I posted was, I think we talked often enough on the HH Boards about how to recover from a running perspective, less so from a dietary perspective. Electrolyte replenishment is probably something that is easy to overlook, meaybe outside of race day itself or the day after.

And I don't mind the taste of Nuun tablets at all, but thanks for the tip. I don't remember seeing Fizz locally, but I do see that Running Warehouse carries it.

@Julie wrote:I've had issues with low potassium and once it led to a 9 day hospitalization because of how badly it messed my kidneys and a few other things up. I would say try to eat good potassium filled foods, like potatoes and bananas, and don't be afraid to add salt to food once in awhile. I don't try to restrict salt but since I cook almost everything from scratch we don't have that high of a sodium diet, either. I'm glad you found something that worked but I hope you can find enough diet changes so that you don't have to take tablets like that (not like there's a problem with it I would just think it'd be easier to do it through diet).

@carleenp wrote:I have had issues in hot weather if I didn't up potassium intake for a few days after any hard run. Plus I try to keep that up at all times when it is warm. Otherwise I get heavy legs and sometimes cramps. I started drinking coconut water quite a bit since it is rather high in potassium and can be a decent substitute for a sports drink without any high fructose corn syrup in it.

Thanks, Julie and Carleen, for the tips. I think in normal conditions there is enough potassium in my regular diet, but I definitely didn't "up" it, and probably should have, given the extreme conditions.
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Jerry on Fri May 18, 2012 2:49 pm

Come on, VW, you know the truth. Admit it, you are just old. lol!
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Martin VW on Fri May 18, 2012 3:34 pm

@Jerry wrote:Come on, VW, you know the truth. Admit it, you are just old.

No denying that!

but, Jerry, just think how fast I would be if I were your age.

Or your size, for that matter. jocolor
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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Liz R on Fri May 18, 2012 3:58 pm

I am with Michele and Dave O on this one. Remember Alberto Salazar?

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Re: Replenishing Electrolytes After a Hard Race

Post  Chris Coleman on Fri May 18, 2012 5:37 pm

@Jerry wrote:Come on, VW, you know the truth. Admit it, you are just old. lol!
Huh?
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