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Marathon Hydration Plan
Know It. Live It. Love It.

marathon hydration plan, running water faucetA Marathon hydration plan is a crucial aspect of your overall training program. If you do not consume enough proper liquids, you're body could basically break down and cause major problems. Google "Chicago Marathon 2007" and ready articles about the hundreds of individuals that suffered from dehydration

The following marathon hydration plan information is from the American Medicine Athletic Association.

The Winning Hydration Plan
The best way to prevent both dehydration and hyponatremia is to learn the right way to hydrate. Use the following tips to create your own hydration plan:

Drink to Stay Hydrated, Dont Over drink
Your fluid-replacement plan should be designed to minimize loss of body weight so that you avoid dehydration during exercise but prevent weight gain from excess hydration during training or races. A good way to gauge your hourly sweat rate is to figure out the difference in body weight plus your drink volume. For example, if you lost 11/2 pounds (24 oz) during the run, and drank 12 ounces, you should try to drink 36 oz (24 + 12) each hour during similar-intensity training and racing. In this example, drinking 9 ounces every 15 minutes would do it for your marathon hydration plan.

Over drinking dramatically increases the risk of hyponatremia. It is vital not to over drink before a race, because doing so can lower blood sodium even before the race begins. Also, dont over drink during or after the race!

Maintain a Salty Diet to make certain you replace all of the salt lost during training. During a long race (e.g. more than four hours), consider eating salty snacks such as pretzels, especially if you are a salty sweater.

Favor Sports Drinks like Gatorade thirst quencher over water during long distance or intense training and competition, to help keep your body hydrated, fueled and salted. The flavor of a sports drink will encourage you to drink enough to stay hydrated, the carbohydrate energy will fuel your active muscles, and the electrolytes will help replace some of what is lost in sweat. But remember dont over drink any fluid. Stick to your marathon hydration plan!

Recognize Warning Signs of both heat illness and hyponatremia and learn to distinguish between the two. When in doubt, stop exercise, stop drinking and seek medical help fast.

Most marathoners (serious and casual alike) know the important role hydration plays in health and athletic performance. But what you dont know can hurt you drinking too little or too much during intense exercise can be dangerous.

Dehydration: Too Little of a Good Thing
Keeping the body properly hydrated with the right fluids is essential to safety and performance in a marathon. The fiercest competitor an endurance athlete faces is dehydration. The first obvious sign of dehydration is thirst, but things can quickly get worse. Dehydration not only hampers performance but also increases the risk of heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or potentially deadly heat stroke. The good news is that dehydration and heat illness can be prevented and performance improved simply by following the right marathon hydration plan.

Signs of dehydration and heat illness can include:
Headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, irritability, vomiting, heat flush, abnormal chills

Hyponatremia: Too Much of a Good Thing
While its important to drink enough to remain hydrated, over hydrating by drinking too much can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which is serious and sometimes deadly.

What is Hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood drops below 135 mEq/L (138-142 is normal).* Symptoms of hyponatremia usually begin at blood sodium values below 130, with values less than 120 resulting in a serious medical emergency. Exercise-related hyponatremia is thought to be caused by overdrinking. Although rare, hyponatremia can result in seizure, coma, and death, so it is vital that athletes learn about the condition and how to prevent it.

Montain SJ, MN Sawka, and CB Wenger. Hyponatremia associated with exercise: Risk factors and prognosis. Exerc Sports Sci Rev 29:113-117, 2001.

Whos at Risk for Hyponatremia?
Anyone who drinks too much and does not adequately replace the sodium that is lost in sweat risks hyponatremia, but certain people should be especially careful:
Endurance athletes those exercising more than four hours
Athletes on low sodium diets
Beginning marathoners who tend to run slowly and are hyper-vigilant about hydration
Athletes who over hydrate before, during, and after exercise
Salty sweaters those athletes whose skin and clothes are caked with white residue after exercise

Symptoms of Hyponatremia
Watch for a combination of these symptoms, especially if you or somebody you know is at a high risk for the condition.

Symptoms of hyponatremia can include:

Rapid weight gain, swollen hands, confusion and feet, dizziness, throbbing headache, nausea, apathy, severe fatigue, cramping, lack of coordination, bloated stomach, wheezy breathing, seizure

Seek emergency care for hyponatremia victims. In most cases, they will be treated with:
An intravenous solution of a concentrated sodium solution,
A diuretic medication to speed water loss, and
An anti-convulsive medication in the case of seizure

Return from Marathon Hydration Plan to Marathon Nutrition.


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