Once I figured out that sodium was the missing variable in my hot weather racing I was in for a surprise.
I live in Singapore and the places we most often race – Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, even Australia – can impose some of the harshest and most oppressive heat I have ever known. Especially by the time you get to the run.
I had pretty much accepted cramping as par for the course in Ironmans and even half Ironman distances, at least for me.
I think back to how miserable I was, crippled by muscle spasms and cramps, deathmarching like a zombie.
I was plagued with these debilitating pains, always in the run, and I was desperate for an answer.
I examined everything – was I doing enough brick runs, was my bike fit correct, was I drinking enough water, did I lack carbs, calories, or…electrolytes?
Once I started looking at my electrolyte intake, especially sodium, I realized it was negligible. It was only incidental sodium that I may have consumed along with gels or other fuels.
Exacerbating this was the fact that I’m a heavy sweater to begin with, and in the heat, can lose upwards of 1.5 litres of the salty stuff per hour on the bike, and even more on the run.
That’s more than 3 pounds. Per hour.
Then I had a sodium test done. This was to determine the sodium content of each litre of sweat. Mine was at the high end of the chart: 1,425mg.
So if I’m losing more than 2,000mg of sodium per hour on the bike, and even more than that on the run, how am I going to replace it?
There are many electrolyte products out there. One of the more common brands here in Singapore is Precision Hydration. Their 1500 variant actually contains only 750mg of sodium.
So I need about 6-8 of those on the bike, just for a 70.3. The thing is, each pack is 20g or about 1.5-2 tablespoons, and cramming all those into a bottle can get tricky.
Just ask my wife. Each night before a race she so nicely mixes it all up with hot water in a coffee cup, and pours it into my bottle bit-by-bit. It takes her about 10 minutes due to the sheer volume of powders.
Even worse for a full Ironman.
But then I discovered UCAN Hydrate. This stuff packs a whopping 300-310mg of sodium into just 3g of powder (depending on the flavor)! That means it’s 3 times the concentration of PH 1500.
And I can easily dump 10 of those into a bottle (30g). That’ll give me 1,500 mg of sodium per hour, just right for a 2:30 bike, for example.
For exactly the same amount of sodium, it would take more than triple the quantity of PH 1500, (5 packs of 20g each), leaving little to no room for my other nutrition in the same bottle.
My only problem? I can’t get this stuff locally – that’s why I have this one final pack left. It’s wrinkled, worn, weathered and beaten because I’m saving it.
Saving it for that one blistering brick I have to do or maybe from when I return from a ride just totally beat.
But until then, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more UCAN Hydrate because gram-for-gram it delivers more sodium than any other product out there.
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