Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yep, Sure Has Been Hot Out There....

....spit, kick dirt, then complain about the gub'ment. That's typical conversation these days as Arkansas is experiencing record heat for this early in the summer. It can be tough on folks, but most dedicated riders, who regularly who spend time outdoors, acclimate pretty well and are able to continue on with their routine, That said, I could have sworn on Sunday afternoon that it felt like it was 100 degrees. It was actually only 99, so I guess I'm getting soft.

Extremely hot days like last Monday, when the temperature had dropped to 102 by my ride time, tend to thin the traffic along the River Trail, but the heat doesn't have to be a show stopper for fit, prepared cyclists.

Stay hydrated, but just water will not get it done for long efforts!

This is  basic information to outdoor athletes operating in extreme heat, but we simply have got to maintain proper hydration and electrolyte, mainly sodium, intake to perform and to simply survive in relative comfort.  Every year, it seems that many of us have to learn the hard lessons that come with dehydration or failure to replenish electrolytes. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke are extreme conditions, but for cyclists, the punishment is usually just poor performance, excruciating cramps, and a really shitty ride home. I feel like most riders know this stuff, but while visiting with a friend this week, who happens to be an accomplished ultra-distance runner, she mentioned that she was just realizing that plain water was not enough to get her by on long runs in hot weather. She must be doing something right, as she has completed a number of 100 mile-plus events in extreme conditions, but she was just starting to get more methodical about it. Never having had any formal coaching, I'll call her a "native talent" who just loves to run, but her experience is not the norm. Most folks really have to pay attention to the details of hydration and nutrition to perform at that level.
I'm a numbers guy and several years ago I set about calculating my sodium needs, because I also sweat like the proverbial pig and knew that I needed to replace more than water. Here is a little information from the Power Bar website:

Sodium and water are required in appropriate ratios based on an athlete’s sweat rate. It is recommended that an athlete determine their sweat rate in various conditions (link to Sweat Rate Calculator) and consume sodium based on the amount of fluid they require. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who are active for more than one hour consume 500–700 mg of sodium for every 32 oz (~1L) of water they consume. However, there are some who recommend 500–1,000 mg of sodium per 32 oz of water, or per one hour of intense exercise.

Experimental data has demonstrated that sweat rate and sodium loss is highly individual, ranging from 460–1840 mg/L of sweat. This can be further influenced by numerous other factors including genetics, fitness, acclimatization, and weather conditions. As such, both the sweat rate and the amount of sodium per oz (or liter) of sweat is highly individual. Athletes must experiment in training to find the right balance that works for their body and exercise conditions. 

 I will typically drink a bottle of sports drink to every 1 or 2 bottles of water in the summer, and can easily got through 2 bottles an hour when it is really hot. A 24oz bottle of Gatorade mixed to the label proportions from powder contains 300 mg of sodium. While that amount allows the body to readily absorb the drink, it is far short of the amount of sodium needed to replace what I sweat out over the course of a long ride. To compensate, I add salt and salt substitute (potassium chloride) to my Gatorade and sometimes carry along Enduralyte supplements. We've been conditioned to avoid salt, but for active folks in hot weather, unless you have a blood pressure problem, you are unlikely to overdo it if you eat a normal healthy diet.

Experiment to find out what works for you, and even then it's possible to get into trouble. Last Saturday, I failed to mix up my standard drink load, but felt like I was still OK for a moderate 60 mile ride on a humid, but not extremely hot morning. I was at less than peak form on the ride, but felt OK until reality set in as cramps fired off in both of my legs as I headed over the BDB about 10 miles from home. A gracious friend gave me a bottle of GatorAde that I gulped between spasms and then I stopped at the Argenta Market to simply grabbed salt from the lunch counter and lick it out of my hand. Not real appealing to the diners perhaps, but the cramps soon subsided and I made the last climb home, but my experience shows how quickly a ride can go from good to very bad while operating in extreme conditions.

Enjoy the ride, but be careful and pay attention to what your body is telling you!

A Note To Readers: I'm still here!

A couple of folks, due to recent inactivity, have asked Mrs JBar if I was laying off the blog. Absolutely not, says I. That's how rumors get started. My paying job has been particularly busy and we took some time off for our usual Colorado vacation. Between work, travel, and riding there simply have not been enough hours in the day to do much writing. I'm about to have some extended time off of the bike as I'm having some repair work done on an injured hand (no, not a bike wreck. I don't ski worth a damn.), so I should be regaling with tales of some sort as I rehab. The Tour de France starts Saturday, so that should provide fodder for commentary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guess they didn't see your break time post below, taking time off. Hope your hand heals up fast. As always, I enjoy your blog.