I don’t have a good track record of successful hydration.
After the debacle at Zooma, I have decided that this summer, I will get it under control. Since Sunday is April 1, that basically means we’re done with 50-degree running days, so now’s as good a time as any to start trying a few things.
But how on earth do I figure out what might work for me? There are so many options–gels, drink mixes, bars… most of which taste like cardboard. So I did some
Googling reading and discovered there’s a lot more out there beyond Gatorade and GUs. I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t realize that these products don’t all do the same thing.
This article and this one both explain the concept of slower-acting carbohydrates and why traditional sports drinks lead to GI distress in some people, me included. Here’s the TL;DR version:
Here’s the back-story: As you run the marathon, your gut gets dehydrated and blood is shunted away from it to the working muscles. This is a positive for your muscles but is a big negative for your GI tract. It can no longer tolerate as concentrated or as much carbohydrate as it could earlier in the race. You hear this when runners mention that the gel or drink that tasted so good at mile 5 made them want to vomit at mile 20.
In this strategy, you aren’t using fast-acting carbohydrates that create the quick shuttling of carbohydrates from the gut to the blood stream (and creates the spike/crash cycle). Instead, you use slow-absorbing carbohydrates that maintain a steady blood glucose level and are kinder on a dehydrated GI tract.
It kind of goes along with my earlier strategy of using real food–Fig Newtons, pretzels, etc. as running fuel–but I never really found the right combination to make carrying all of that stuff worthwhile. Since hydration and GI issues continue to plague me (sometimes simultaneously), this slow-carb concept seems right in my wheelhouse.
Some more reading and I’ve narrowed my search down to three products.
The first is Tailwind, which is both fuel and hydration. You’re supposed to sip it a little at a time during an endurance event, not chug it at an aid station like Gatorade, and supposedly it’s more gentle on the GI tract. It’s also a fuel source, so it covers all the bases and eliminates the need for gels, etc. I tried the Naked Unflavored first, which tasted a bit like diluted seawater, but the caffeinated green tea flavor was tolerable at least at first when it was cold. After a few miles it got warm (even in an insulated handheld bottle) and tasted less appealing though, so I’m not sure whether it will work for me through the summer. But one test does not a decision make, so I will give it some more trials.
Tailwind Green Tea Buzz
I have to say that the company’s introdcution cracked me up. “The three most traumatic moments in my stomach’s career: Spring Break Palm Springs ’91, Lechuguilla at the bottom of the Copper Canyon ‘93, and Gel #6 Leadville ’04.” Gotta love someone with a sense of humor about barfing.
The second product I’m trying is Generation UCAN. It’s designed to deliver electrolytes evenly to prevent the blood sugar spike that faster-acting carbs provide, and as a result is more gentle on the stomach. This one is an electrolyte-only, which means I still have to use gels or other fuel sources, but I like the Skratch gummy gels and don’t find that to be a significant turnoff.
UCAN lemon lime
I tried a serving of the lemon-lime UCAN Hydrate during an 85-degree workout, and found that it tasted pretty good even after it got a little warm. Huge plus, considering my flavor pickiness. They have a buy-one-get-one-free promotion going on through tomorrow and I’m tempted to stock up (I’m a sucker for a discount), but since I’ve only tried it once I’m not sure I want to to double down on it without more testing on longer runs.
My third experiment is with DripDrop. I hadn’t even heard of this or come across it in any of my research, but a training friend (who’s a pediatric ICU nurse) brought some to a workout this week and shared it with all of us.
I had just mixed up my UCAN though, and didn’t try it, so I’ve put the DripDrop in my bag to test out during tomorrow’s long run. Their website doesn’t specify that it’s a slow-acting carb like the others I’ve researched, but it explains the science behind delivering rehydration via the small intestine, which is the same way Tailwind and UCAN work. And since it’s formulated for children, I’m thinking it’s gentle on the stomach as well. Like I said, I’m weird about tastes, though, so that will be a big factor when I do try it.
All three are more expensive than traditional hydration and fueling products like Gatorade. A package of 12 Tailwind packs (two servings per pack) is $30 on Amazon Prime. Like I said, UCAN Hydrate is $25 per container (30 servings) plus shipping, and for another day is buy-one-get-one-free from their website. With Amazon Prime the 30-serving container is $28.95. DripDrop’s website sells an 8-serving box (each package mixes with 8oz of water) for $9.99 or Subscribe and Save for $7.99. Amazon Prime‘s page is confusing–it says there are two sizes–a four-count box for $10.99 and an eight-count box, also for $10.99. Why anyone would pay the same price for four as eight is beyond me, but Amazon can be weird so I’m not sure what’s really happening there.
All this to say that my Stage One trials are underway on these three products. Summer lasts half the year here, so I have some time to tinker with them and see what works. And if all else fails, I still have a small supply of Zofran to pick up the pieces. 😀