How do you manage hydration when you’re training? Do you stick to just water? Sports drinks? Don’t bother at all, or drink too much and wonder why you lose all your energy and get cramp with miles still to go? Do you finish runs covered in enough salt to cure a side of beef? Then I’ve got a suggestion for you…
A bit of background; in 2017 Duffrunning was shortlisted for the first time at the Running Awards, and I went along to the awards do. They had put on a mini event for the nominated bloggers and we were given goody bags with various products and services to review. One of the things in the bag was a flyer for a ‘sweat test’ and off the back of that a tailored hydration plan from a sports drink brand called Precision Hydration. Their range of drink tabs, sachets and salt tabs is all about getting the balance of fluids and sodium right for training and racing.
The Running Awards do had been on the Thursday night before the London marathon. Looking through the goodies again after the race, I saw the Precision Hydration flyer and thought I could have done with a few more electrolytes around mile 18 when my vision began to swim. Or after mile 23 when against the knowledge of all past experiences with Lucozade Sport I grabbed a bottle in desperation and swigged some down, looking for anything that might help in the last few miles.
Up to this point I’d stuck to water most of the time, having attempted to use Lucozade and ending up in an unfortunate situation involving being very grateful for knowing my local Sainsbury’s has a loo. No offence to Lucozade – I am sure the London Marathon wouldn’t use them if this was the standard reaction; it just doesn’t suit me.
This feeling that I might find adding something else to my usual water and gels regime helpful and the appeal of finding out exactly what a ‘sweat test’ involved meant I got in touch with the chaps at Precision Hydration and made an appointment to see what it was all about.
It took us a while to sort out a suitable date, so late in the summer of 2017 I found myself in the company of Andy and Jonny with a silicone pad strapped to my arm, watching my sweat slowly fill a tiny coil of plastic tubing. What this sweat test aims to do is simulate how your body sweats during vigorous exercise. Your sample of sweat is then checked for its sodium content. The PH team are then able to advise you on how much you sweat and how much salt you lose in your sweat relative to what the levels should be to maintain performance.
I was informed that I am a moderately salty sweater, but that I sweat quite quickly and quite a lot, so I was losing a reasonable amount of good honest sodium.
Honestly, I’ve seen my head after a hard race in the summer. You could use me to season a tasting menu for a table of twenty. I was not shocked.
The idea behind the Precision Hydration solution seemed straightforward and sound; they are formulated as hypotonic sports drinks as opposed to isotonic, and what this means is that they absorb more quickly and help you hydrate more easily. There are different levels of drinks tabs depending on how much you sweat and how much sodium you are losing. You won’t need to top up a salt shaker’s worth for every run and taking on large quantities of unnecessary sodium is clearly not going to be very good for you. So the hydration plans offered by Precision Hydration recommend an everyday strength, a pre-loading and re-hydrating strength and a training and racing strength.
You don’t have to have a sweat test to get a plan from PH. Their website has a simple questionnaire that you can fill in based around how much you exercise and sweat and the intensity of that exercise and sweating. The team advised me to take the questionnaire at home to see if it matched the results they gave me, and it did.
I was really impressed with the whole thing – the guys I met were friendly and eager to share the details of how the product works in an easy to understand way. They were both athletes themselves so it was easy to see why they were passionate about helping people achieve their best.
So if it’s as good as all that why has it taken me so long to write this up?
Well, when I recommend something I like to have tried it properly first. That’s as true for socks as for salts, but of course with kit reviews it only takes a few runs to try something out and then let you know about it. With this, I wanted to see what difference it made over time. I don’t get paid for any of my reviews, all I’ve got is the integrity of my opinion, so I didn’t want to make a recommendation if I couldn’t say I’d done the work to be able to stand by it.
When I went to see the guys from Precision Hydration it was partway through my New York marathon training. The hydration plan they gave me recommended using the 250 on a day to day basis, the 1000 for training and racing and the 1500 for pre-loading and recovery. I found the 1500 a little strong for my stomach, so I revised this down a bit.
During the second half of my New York training block I used the 1000 to pre-load my electrolytes the night before, and the 500 on the day of long training runs and important races. I felt that it did help me to run stronger for longer, so I kept on using them after the marathon. However it was last summer when it was extremely hot when I really felt the benefits of using these drinks.
Usually I hate training in hot weather, and summer in the city last year was long, hot and draining.
I used the lower strength 250 drink on a daily basis to keep my sodium levels up for all the sweaty Tube journeys I was doing. On moderate training days I changed that up to a 500, and I also used this strength for pre-race hydration on the morning of any races I did. Again, I used the 1000 for pre-loading my system the day before long training runs, important races and for Richmond marathon day in September.
I found that instead of losing all my energy to the heat I was able to train almost as normal, with my muscles feeling the benefits of being warmer without poor hydration sapping my energy and messing with my heart rate too much. I made some big gains in that training block and came out of the summer with a 1:56 half marathon and a 4:10 marathon time, both big new PB’s. I think using Precision Hydration to make sure I was drinking enough water without washing all my electrolytes away made a big difference in terms of helping me to complete the training I needed to get those times despite the rising mercury.
I also re-hydrated with the 500 or 1000 after long runs and marathons, and I can definitely say that for both New York and for Richmond marathons I didn’t have that feeling of complete dehydration related exhaustion that I had after London in 2017. This feeling is what comes with hyponatremia, basically when your sodium levels have dropped too low and you feel foggy, sick and like all you want to do is sleep.
At this point I have used Precision Hydration products for about 18 months, find them very helpful and am happy to recommend you give them a try. They’re gentle on the stomach and taste pretty good. They are not as cheap as some of the bigger brands, but I think that’s reflective of how much more helpful they are. For what you get out of using them, it’s worth the few extra pennies.