Hydration is an important part of training. Every runner must have access to his liquids at every moment of his run, especially during race time or when he is doing intervals. Was there ever a time when you did not bring a bottle of fluids during a run? Forgot about it? Dropped it somewhere? Gave it to someone else? At any point in time, you will still need to retrieve it because you will get thirsty. Otherwise, you’ll be dead.
During my last race, I was conquered by a very challenging choice at the first aid station. Water or sports drink? Not that there was any other choice, like a cocktail perhaps, but I ended up drinking the sports drink and showering myself with water. At the last stop, though, when I was already out of breath and delirious, I must have reversed the selection because someone breathed, “hey sweetie!” past me. And…going back to the title of this article… I was never the type who took the ‘8-glasses-of-water-a-day’ rule seriously because I hate feeling ‘bloated’. I mean, who wants to look like a stuffed frog? If you ask me, I am content with one glass for every meal. However, I will never forget Mom’s advice to follow this simple rule to keep me on my toes the whole day. Water is a source of life. Period.
Especially when the high-energy activities started to bug me, water has become my staple food – so to speak. So when I run, I followed that simple rule and my coach’s: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. However, just when I thought that water was the only thing that will keep me smiling all the way to the finish line, a wide array of sports drinks came into the picture. The bunch has been trying to convince you and me that they are all designed to give the boosted energy we need, or the sodium replacement we lost, or the sugar requirement that we crave for – blah blah blah! These drinks generally contain – as each label shouts it out – carbohydrates, electrolytes, minerals, vitamins, herbs, metabolites, and other less-proven ingredients which might as well get lost under the ‘best before’ numbers or the price tag. For the purpose of educating myself on whether the contents of these hydration liquids will really help boost my performance (and to avoid encountering another challenging choice at the aid station), I head off to the nearest store and chose some of the sports drinks that have managed to send off the ‘marketing promises’ persistently. According to an article I read in the papers, the key to choosing a sports drink is to select the one that you find most palatable. In short, if you like how it tastes, you buy. For most of my climbs, I have been used to the taste of Gatorade orange. In fact, my friends and I brought along Gatorade powder on our hike up to Mt. Apo. And the taste buds had quite a party. Thus, I have been drinking this product ever since I started running. Ten races after though, the palates were having a mind of their own and took a fondness for Powerade – the blue one particularly. However, it became more of a ‘drink’ rather than a ‘hydration’. The palates had the same party with all the confetti afterwards and the blue color made me want to grab for some more. I guess it was somewhat addictive. Then, Vitwater cut in the dance. The sugary taste kept me coming back for more of the blue stuff. It’s either that or the billboard of Manny Pacquiao endorsing the product must have planted an allusion in me. Now I know! If you haven’t noticed, blue is my favorite color but when Vitwater ran out of booths in races, I gladly welcomed the carbonated, isotonic sports drink that is 100plus, which kept me company for a few months. Just when I thought I had enough of sports drinks, Pocari Sweat started giving away hundreds of bottles of their mild-tasting, non-carbonated sweet beverage that definitely hit the spot when you can’t read the kilometer markers anymore.
So, did these drinks ever played key roles to my performance at all? If they did boost my energy levels in any way, I didn’t notice but at least they supplemented me. The colors were just amazing at the aid stations – it somehow kept your mind away from the competition. Or was it hypnotism?
What can these hydration liquids – or sports drinks – give that your regular H2O cannot? As you may already be aware, a sports drink is a beverage that helps replenish fluids and nutrients in our body which we use up when we run, exercise or engage in any sport. As I have already been challenged with, sports drinks are available in an assortment of flavors and range of colors. Some are pre-made liquids and some come in powder form.
The first thing you must remember when you buy a sports drink is research, research, research. Contrary to popular belief, some of them will never be able to quench your thirst. Personally, water is still the best beverage there is if the main purpose is for rehydrating. Although it is never really classified as a beverage, water provides your body enough fluids that it needs and satisfyingly quenches thirst. However, there are times when rigorous trainings or runs make your body lose electrolytes and drinking too much water can cause water intoxication. Eventually, your brain gets fried when you don’t replace the electrolytes in your body. You want a trade secret? I usually mix them. Water and sports drink in my ever-reliable Amphipod, or hydration bottle. It provides me the hydration I need and the ‘party’ I crave for. But don’t take my word for it because that is why we train. We don’t just train to perform better, we also train on how to hydrate – and rehydrate for that matter. It would also help if you ask your fitness trainer or doctor on your next visit. Otherwise, your next hydration crisis will just be another unsightly heap of confetti. (also published in frontRunner Magazine)