Paddle Healthy: Electrolytes and Hydration

In the last Paddle Healthy article, we looked at the challenges of staying hydrated during exercise, the basics of the five main electrolytes, and the limitations of water and traditional sports drinks. Now, we're switching gears and focusing on how much you should drink and when, and which electrolyte-rich drinks, goos, and capsules some of the top male and female SUP athletes recommend.

How much should you drink?

Old school nutrition theory dictates that everyone should consume 64 ounces of water per day—that's a total of eight eight-ounce glasses between breakfast and bedtime. But, as we explored in last week's post, water alone is not enough when it comes to hydration, and drinking too much water may actually do more harm than good. Plus, does a 220-pound male paddler like Chuck Patterson really require no more liquid than a female paddler who weighs little more than half as much, or a junior athlete? No, that doesn't make sense.

So, if the old theories are flawed, then what's a paddler to do? Well, the first thing couldn't be simpler: just listen to your body. Our sense of thirst is highly sophisticated, and, the old theory that, "if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated," is just plain wrong, according to the latest research. So when you feel you need a drink during an on- or off-water session, take it!

If you want to go a little further with how much to drink, the kind folks over at Osmo Nutrition have come up with a handy formula that tells you how many ounces of an electrolyte-rich drink you should consume per hour, based on your body weight and activity level. For lower intensity workouts, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.154, and for more intense training sessions or races, use 0.185 as the multiplier. So, at 185 pounds, I'd need 28.49 ounces of fluid per hour for a lower intensity paddle/workout, and 34.225 ounces for a harder session (and no, we don't expect you to measure those decimals when filling your water bottle or CamelBak pack!).

Photo: Pat Huber/Rainbow Sandals

Photo: Pat Huber/Rainbow Sandals

What The Pros Use To Stay Hydrated

Now that we've looked at how much you should drink per hour during exercise, let's take a look inside the hydration routines of some top paddlers:

"I usually use the Hammer Endurolytes capsules leading up to the race," says Jeremy Riggs of Maui. "I start them one day before competition and then increase to maybe two every hour, about three hours prior to the start, if it's an afternoon race. The capsules keep me from getting bloated, as the water mixed with electrolytes can do. I use Hammer Gel during the channel races."

Allison Riddle of Southern California achieves optimum performance with the use of HDX, after failed attempts to replenish electrolytes with other sports drinks. "One thing to be wary of is sugary sports drinks. I used to end up with acid reflux from having too much Gatorade on big training days or after races," Riddle says. "About two years ago, I started drinking HDX. I didn't get acid reflux from it; it tasted really good and [I had] no more headaches from not being properly hydrated. HDX Hydration Mix is a balanced blend of electrolytes, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals working together for healthy hydration."

Photo courtesy of Surftech.

Photo: Surftech

Marathon paddler Shane Perrin looks for electrolyte replenishment that lasts throughout his endurance SUP missions: "For electrolytes, I use CamelBak’s Elixir tabs. They’re little wafer-like things in a tube. Just pop one in a bottle, wait a few minutes until it dissolves, and drink it," Perrin says. "This gives you a bubbly drink of electrolytes. I balance that with Spiz meal replacement drinks while on one of my endurance paddle missions."

Nicole Madosik prefers EFS First Endurance sports drinks, which combine all five electrolytes. "Another option to check out is Infinit Nutrition, which creates custom sport drink blends for you based on your individual goals and preferences," says Madosik. "For most people, it's about taste. Some like sweet, some like salty, and some like watery. Whatever your preference, I would suggest you find one that you enjoy to drink but that contains all electrolytes."

While the hydration products mentioned above are what some of the pros use to help achieve optimum performance and avoid the effects of dehydration, we suggest you try out various products and hydration routines to decide what works best for your body and performance. —Phil White

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