• Guide To Multi Sport

    Don't know the difference between aquathlon and swimrun? Chances are you've heard of triathlon, but these days multi sport is way more than just the typical swim - bike - run format. We explore some of the newer multi sports as well as the classics that are enjoying a revival.

    Breca Swimrun multi sport race swimming running

    Triathlon

    Let's start with the most popular multi-sport du jour. The Brownlee brothers' performance at the 2012 London Olympics has been followed by a rise in popularity of triathletes like Lucy Charles who are supported by global brands such as Red Bull and are growing a notable fan-base thanks to Instagram. This has led to triathlon becoming more popular than ever and the trend shows no signs of stopping just yet.

    triathlon triathlete multi sport swim bike run

    Sports involved

    Swimming, cycling, running

    Distances

    Distance Swim Bike Run
    Super Sprint 400 m
    (0.25 mi)
    10 km
    (6.2 mi)
    2.5 km
    (1.6 mi)
    Sprint 750 m
    (0.47 mi)
    20 km
    (12 mi)
    5 km
    (3.1 mi)
    Olympic (Standard) 1.5 km
    (0.93 mi)
    40 km
    (25 mi)
    10 km
    (6.2 mi)
    Ironman 70.3 (Half Ironman) 1.9 km
    (1.2 mi)
    90 km
    (56 mi)
    21.1 km
    (13.1 mi)
    ITU-Middle Distance 3.0 km
    (1.9 mi)
    80 km
    (50 mi)
    20 km
    (12 mi)
    Ironman 140.6 (Full Ironman) 3.9 km
    (2.4 mi)
    181 km
    (112 mi)
    42.2 km
    (26.2 mi)
    ITU-Long Distance 4.0 km
    (2.5 mi)
    120 km
    (75 mi)
    30 km
    (19 mi)

     

    How it works

    Triathlon follows a simple swim - bike - run format with transition areas between each discipline. As a triathlete, you will start with the swim which can either be indoors in a swimming pool or outdoors in open water. Open water swims are more popular for most triathlons although some races aimed at beginners will feature a shorter pool swim. 

    Once you've completed your swim, you run to a transition area where you take off your wetsuit (if you wore one) and change into your bike shoes. You then head off out on your bike for the bike section. 

    Once finished on the bike, you come back to transition to rack your bike, put on your running shoes, and head off out for the run. 

    Different triathlon races offer a variety of different course types, from open roads to closed circuits and open water swims in the sea, ocean, rivers, or lakes. If you're really into this sport, you may end up investing in a specialist triathlon bike and all sorts of other specialist kit. For more detailed information about triathlon racing, read our triathlon guide.

    As all triathlon races are governed by the ITU (International Triathlon Union), all triathlon races will be fairly uniform and as a racer you will have to stick to rigid guidelines and rules. You will also find the distances always stick closely to those outlined, although some races may have slightly longer or shorter distances due to course design; it will always be within 10% of the prescribed limit though.  

    Cross Triathlon

    For those looking for something a little more rugged, cross triathlon takes triathlon off-road and into the wilderness.

    Xterra cross triathlon off road cross country

    Sports involved

    Open water swimming, mountain biking, trail running

    Distances

    Typically a 1km swim, 20-30km mountain bike, and 6-10km trail run but distances can vary from race to race.

    How it works

    Cross triathlon follows the same format as traditional triathlon but it is all done 'off-road'. The swim is always does in open water such as in a lake or in the ocean, the bike is done on a mountain bike, and the run is a trail run. The idea first started in Hawaii, the spiritual home of triathlon, and has since established itself as a major multi sport with the Xterra Championships being the Holy Grail for cross triathletes.

    The courses tend to be much more technical and rugged than that of traditional triathlon and the cycle stage requires more care and skill rather than pure speed. Due to the fact that the bike stage could involve severe hills and navigating trees, rocks and other hazards, comparing times between different races can be tricky and unreliable.

    Duathlon

    Duathlon is triathlon's close relative, simply eliminating the swim from the popular multi sport racing format. Perfect for those who can't or don't want to swim but also popular among triathletes in the winter season, duathlon can be a very competitive and fast sport.

    duathlon racing running cycling

    Sports involved

    Running, cycling

    Distances

    Super sprint distance - 2.5km run, 10km bike, 2.5km run

    Sprint distance - 5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run

    Standard (Olympic) distance - 10km run, 40km bike, 5km run

    Middle distance - 10km run, 60km bike, 10km run

    Long distance - 10km run, 150km bike, 30km run 

    How it works

    A duathlon follows a run - bike - run format, eliminating the swim from standard triathlon format. Due to the fact most athletes' strongest disciplines are the bike and run sections, duathlon can be extremely competitive and fast. 

    Duathlon follows the same format as triathlon in that there is a transition between each discipline. You will start with your first run before heading to the transition area to grab your bike and helmet and head out on the bike section. Once that's done, you head back to transition to change into your running shoes and sprint off for your final run. 

    Duathlon is a very popular sport among triathletes during the winter season when swimming – especially in open water – is impractical. Many triathletes will stay fit and keep their racing strategy strong by competing in autumn and winter duathlon races. Duathlon is also perfect for anyone interested in doing multi sport but who can't or doesn't want to swim. Also, for people looking to dip their toe into multi sport (metaphorically speaking) but who aren't ready to commit to swimming lessons, wetsuits, and the complexities of triathlon just yet.  

    Aquathlon

    Aquathlon is another of triathlon's close relatives, this time eliminating the bike section from the popular multi sport format. Less equipment to worry about and perfect for those who don't like cycling, aquathlon is rising in popularity as of late.

    Total Motion Aquathlon Tooting Bec Lido London 

    Sports involved

    Swimming, running

    Distances

    ITU Distances

    Warm water aquathlon (water temperature above 22 degrees Celsius)

    2.5km run - 1km swim - 2.5km run

    Cold water aquathlon (water temperature below 22 degrees Celsius)

    1km swim - 5km run

    Long Course aquathlon

    2km swim - 10km run

    Each country, federation, and even individual race may have its own distance regulation as water temperature can vary so drastically from country to country.

    How it works

    Transporting a bike to a race, especially abroad, can be logistically difficult. As can organising a race with a bike section, especially if it has to be done on roads open to traffic. Eliminating the bike section of a triathlon – creating the aquathlon – became popular a few decades ago after race organisers and athletes alike realised how much simpler it would be just to have the run and swim portions of the race. Not only this, some people simply don't get on with cycling but still want to enjoy multi sport, so for them aquathlon is the perfect race.

    In an aquathlon, it can be either a run - swim - run format or just a swim followed by a run. In general, aquathlon follows the longer distances while modern biathlon is shorter distances. Biathle, which is also swimming and running, is just for training purposes for those who compete in pentathlon. 

    Swimrun

    For those who enjoy swimming and running but want more of a challenge or outdoor adventure, then swimrun is the choice. Put simply, swimrun is like aquathlon on steroids.

    Breca Swimrun multi sport

    Sports involved

    Open water swimming, trail running

    Distances

    Swimrun has no set distance standard and each race distance varies

    How it works

    There are several differences between swimrun and its close relative aquathlon. Where aquathlon is like triathlon in that there is a transition area, swimrun differs as there is no stopping in between stages; participants swim in their running shoes and run in their wetsuit.

    In triathlon and aquathlon you're not allowed buoyancy aids but in swimrun you're allowed hand paddles and pull buoys because of the drag created by swimming in shoes.

    Another difference is that aquathlon is just one swim and one run whereas swimrun could involve several stages, with a minimum of 2 swims and 2 runs. For example, the Breca Swimrun Buttermere is 17 alternating runs and swims.

    The final difference is that an aquathlon often takes place in a pool whereas swimrun is always outdoors in open water and on rugged trails. Swimrun is usually done in pairs for safety reasons and for many is considered more of an adventure than purely a race. 

    Biathle (Modern Biathlon)

    Biathle or Modern biathlon is a sub-sport of modern pentathlon invented to create opportunities for training the run and swim parts of pentathlon in real race conditions. It is a sport in its own right. It bears close resemblance to aquathlon which also contains swimming and running but which comes from triathlon sport.

    biathle modern biathlon multi sport

    Sports involved

    Swimming, running

    Distances

    Usually 200m and 3km run but distances can vary from race to race.

    How it works

    The race always features a mass start run which then goes into a transition area, much like duathlon. Participants must take off their shoes and socks (unlike in swimrun) and then move onto the swim. For the swim, athletes are allowed to use any stroke (unlike triathlon which forbids backstroke). Then comes another transition back to running and then to the finish line. 

    This sport is not to be confused with biathlon which is cross country skiing and rifle shooting and is a winter Olympic sport.

    Aquabike

    Aquabike is a less popular multi sport that eliminates the run from the swim - bike - run triathlon format. Races are usually undertaken as part of a full triathlon with the participants omitting the run section of the race and just receiving a result for their swim and bike.

    aquabike triathlon multi sport swim bike 

    Sports involved

    Swimming, cycling

    Distances

    Super sprint     400m swim, 10k bike

    Sprint               750m swim, 20k bike

    Standard         1500m swim, 40k bike

    Middle             1.9km swim, 90km bike

    Full                  3.9km swim, 191km bike

    Distances vary but usually follow the same distances as a triathlon with the run omitted.

    How it works

    Aquabike is competed in the same way as a triathlon, simply with the run eliminated. Aquabike is perfect for triathletes who may be injured and therefore cannot run or simply for anyone who likes the idea of multi sport but doesn't like running.

    Quadrathlon

    Quadrathlon is for those who want a little more from their multi sport experience. It is the same as triathlon but with the addition of a kayaking section.

    quadrathlon swim bike run kayaking

    Sports involved

    Swimming, cycling, kayaking, running

    Distances

    Sprint Distance Middle Distance Long Distance
    Swim 750 m 1.5 km 4 km
    Cycle 20 km 40 km 100 km
    Kayak 4 km 8 km 20 km
    Run 5 km 10 km 21 km

     

    How it works

    For a quadrathlon race, the individual disciplines can be done in any order however it usually follows a swim - bike - kayak - run format. Quadrathlon generally follows the same rules and format of a triathlon but with the addition of a kayaking element.

    Other Multi Sport Races

    Sundried is a triathlon specialist and so our passion is for multi sport races related to triathlon. Of course, there are many other types of multi sport such as pentathlon, heptathlon etc but those are track and field sports rather than related to our speciality. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • How To Exercise When You Have Kids

    How to exercise when you have kids at home working mom

    Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. Between rushing to and from school and picking the little ones up from activities and trying to squeeze in daily errands too, it's no wonder that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of 'me time' each day. So how can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a working mom workout routine for you to try.

    How can I find time to workout with kids?

    Finding time to exercise as a working parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be! Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.

    1. Get a training buddy

    One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!

    2. Utilise playtime

    When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories! If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.

    3. Try dancing

    Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun! If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience. 

    4. Swap your car for walking or cycling

    By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking your children to school. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car!

    5. Exercise before you start your day

    By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.

    How can a working mom lose weight

    How can a stay at home mum lose weight?

    There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.

    1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids

    There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.

    2. Don't snack mindlessly

    If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.

    3. Do make mealtime an occasion

    If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately. 

    4. Don't eat through stress

    Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.

    5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved

    Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process. 

    how to work out with a kid at home

    Working mom workout routine

    If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this working mom home workout routine by Sundried ambassador Carly Newson.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Surprising Ways To Get Fit

    Unusual Methods of keeping in shape

    We often go for the traditional approach to exercise and stick to the tried and tested methods. We jog, run, cycle, weight train and so on, but have you ever thought of trying something new?

    Fitness crazes are something we are used to seeing come and go because people can’t help but invent new ways to do things. A lot of sports just modify themselves slightly and create a craze that sticks. Spinning, for example, has become a massive hit and a great way to keep fit.

    So what else is there as an alternative for those who want to shape it up?

    Hula Hooping

    Hula hooping is a great way to get fit as it raises your heart rate, improves your cardiovascular performance, and will strengthen and tone your core, arms, legs, and back. If you'd like to know more about hula hooping, check out our ambassador Emma Barrett who does hula hooping full-time!

    Emma Barrett Hula Hooping Sundried Outdoors Graffiti

    Pole Fitness

    Pole fitness classes have gained a lot of popularity recently as a new way to get in shape. They are a fun and social way of getting fit as well as strong as it is very hard work! Pole fitness will improve your balance and coordination as well as your cardiovascular fitness and it's a great way to spend the evening with your friends. Pole fitness is suitable for both men and women. 

    Aerial Yoga

    If normal yoga isn't enough for you, then you may want to try aerial yoga. By supporting your body weight on an aerial sling, you will be able to achieve yoga poses and deep stretches in a more relaxed way. One of the primary features of using a yoga hammock is its ability to take pressure off the spine and joints as you practice stretches and positions with the support of the sling.

    Barre

    Ballet dancing is classically a great way to keep in shape but it takes a lot of discipline and a lifetime of practice. A ballet barre is a straight bar attached to the wall which ballerinas use to support them while they practice and hold demanding isometric movements. Isometric holds are exercises that you do while not moving (think of the plank.) A modern barre workout is one that has been adapted to suit modern gyms and uses weights and yoga poses to help you achieve a better posture and more toned physique.

    Ballet Barre Workout Class Isometric Holds

    Trampolining

    Trampolining is another gym-based workout that is gaining a lot of popularity. Using mini-trampettes, these classes are high intensity and fast-paced meaning you are bound to work up a sweat! This is a fairly specialised workout so your local commercial gym may not offer it, but if you go on the look out you will be able to find a gym nearby that offers this type of class. Check out this video of a trampolining class in action!

    Exercise is supposed to be enjoyable and it is worth exploring some alternatives whenever you can. The body gets used to the same type of training very quickly, so if you do the same thing at the gym every day you will stop noticing any changes in your fitness and physique. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Train Like A Pro: Strength Training For Triathletes

    triathlete strength training

    Swimming, cycling, and running will inevitably take up most of your time as a triathlete, but hitting the gym and doing strength training is just as important. We chat with two professional triathletes to get the low down on how they strength train to improve their performance and get the most out of their training.

    Matt Leeman - professional triathlete

    Matt doesn't do strength training in the typical sense. Instead of hitting the gym and lifting weights, he uses natural factors like hills to help him improve his strength and increase his muscular endurance. 

    Triathlete strength training

    Strength training is a big component of any sport, the common definition of strength is "the ability to exert a force against a resistance". Each sport has different demands and hence requires different classifications of strength, triathlon predominantly requires strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over.

    Although I personally do not lift weights, which are commonly associated with strength training, I do triathlon-specific strength training, adapting the training of the disciplines to a strength based way of training.

    Swim

    There are swim specific tools that can be utilised to enhance swimming strength, the main ones I use are the pull buoy, hand paddles, and band. The muscles used in swimming are predominantly the lats (side of the back) and triceps. The pull buoy enables swimming with less kicking to maintain the body position so that the upper body can be worked more. The hand paddles create a larger surface area to increase the resistance of a stroke. The band is used to take leg kicking out of the equation and rather get propulsion from the overall movement of the body and core muscles.

    Matt Leeman pro triathlete swimming training triathlon

    Bike

    The majority of the time in a triathlon is spent on the bike so having good bike strength is essential for putting together a good race, both directly, making you ride faster, and indirectly, the less the bike takes out of you, the more you’ll have left for the run. The two things that can be utilised for bike strength are the bike's gears and hills.

    By doing specific intervals ‘over-gearing’ i.e. using a bigger gear than you would usually use to train your leg muscles to produce a greater force so that when we are racing we are working at a lower percentage of our overall capacity. Hills obviously give a great stimulus for developing strength, ensuring you ride on different terrain is important for developing a well rounded strong athlete.

    strength training cycling

    Run

    The main ways in which I train my running strength is using hills and mixed surface terrain. I will often do a specific hill repeat session where one specific hill is targeted and run up multiple times. The beauty of hills is that it prevents you from over-striding and promotes glute engagement, which improves our ability to utilise the bigger muscles in the legs such as glutes and quads that handle fatigue better than the smaller muscles of the leg, which is very important in an endurance sport.

    winner triathlon strength training

    Claire Steels - World Champion duathlete

    Claire tells us about her three favourite strength training exercises and why they are well suited to an endurance athlete.

    Bulgarian Split Squat

    This exercise is great for running and cycling power but also glute, hip and core stability. Unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat are fantastic for developing the individual leg strength required for sports such as running and cycling, where each leg is required to produce power independently.

    duathlon strength training

    TRX Mountain Climbers

    This exercise requires core stability and control whilst moving each leg independently. This replicates the physiological control that is required in a duathlon as a strong core is essential for efficient running and cycling.

    TRX mountain climbers strength training for duathletes

    Kettlebell Swings

    This is a fantastic exercise for developing power through the posterior chain along the back of the body. It challenges the strength of the whole body but primarily the glutes and hamstrings. It is also a fantastic exercise for testing the cardiovascular system while also trying to produce power making it yet another great exercise for duathletes.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Why And How To Start Your Workout Well Hydrated

    Drinking water thirsty hydration Sundried

    When people talk about hydration, most of the time it's about what and how much athletes should drink during exercise. This is clearly important, but your performance is also massively influenced by how hydrated you are when you start exercising in the first place. Drinking a strong electrolyte drink to optimise your hydration status before long, hot or really hard training sessions and events can significantly improve your performance.

    We call this "pre-loading" and the practice has been widely studied in the last 20 years or so, both with astronauts and athletes. Whilst there's not a completely bullet-proof consensus on the subject - there rarely is - there's strong evidence that taking in additional sodium with fluids before you start sweating is effective in promoting increased acute fluid retention and in improving endurance performance, especially in the heat. 

    This blog aims to give you a more solid understanding of what you can do to arrive at the start of your next event optimally hydrated.

    Once you start sweating, you're fighting a losing battle.

    Once you begin sweating you're generally going to be fighting a losing battle against fluid and electrolyte loss, so starting off properly hydrated can be extremely beneficial. When you're properly hydrated, you have a larger reserve of fluid to draw from over time than if you're dehydrated.

    Starting well hydrated has other benefits too. Optimal hydration maximises your blood volume and this helps general cardiovascular function and your ability to dissipate the heat produced by your working muscles. This reduces fatigue and enables you to maintain your performance for longer.

    Despite the relatively obvious benefits of starting exercise well hydrated, a recent study of over 400 amateur athletes showed that around 31% of them were turning up to training sessions (and, in some cases, competitions) dehydrated!

    In amongst the data there were strong indications that this was very likely to be compromising their performance. This will probably seem like common sense, especially if you’ve ever tried exercising when you know you're a bit ‘dry’. Who in their right mind would want to start exercising hard in a dehydrated state if they're trying to perform at their best?

    This study certainly backs up previous work I've read on the subject and the kind of things we've seen over many years working with athletes in different scenarios. It's certainly not uncommon to see people only really thinking about hydration once they turn up to a session rather than preparing in advance. 

    Often this just happens because those of us who are not full time athletes are running around flat out between workouts and aren’t always able to think about preparing properly for them 100% of the time. That's just life.

    But it can also be a problem for full-time athletes when training two or more times a day, or at times when they’re just under a very high total training load. That's because uncorrected dehydration from a prior training session can make it’s presence felt when the next session gets underway.

    We tend to overcompensate before the big day and this can severely impact performance.

    Although athletes turning up to training a bit low on fluids is relatively common, it's generally less of an issue before major competitions. That’s not to say that turning up to an event dehydrated never happens, I'm sure it does.

    But, because most athletes care a lot about their performance in big events, there's a tendency to increase fluid intake before the big day because extra priority is placed on all aspects of last minute preparation.

    The irony of this extra emphasis on pre-event hydration is that quite a lot of athletes can go from slightly under-drinking before training to significantly over-drinking pre-competition and this can lead to a different set of problems including hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels caused by inadequately replacing the sodium lost when sweating and further dilution by drinking plain water or weak sports drinks), something that can be pretty catastrophic for health and performance if it goes unchecked. A recent study found that 10% of athletes tested at the Ironman European Championships had hyponatremia, which shows you the extent to which hydration issues might be impacting performance.

    What can athletes can learn from astronauts?

    The importance of sodium to hydration and maintaining your performance was further proven by research conducted at NASA at the end of the 20th century.

    NASA’s astronauts were commonly found to be suffering with low blood pressure because they were losing bodily fluids (and therefore blood volume) during their time in microgravity. One NASA paper I read suggested that astronauts live with as much as a 3-4% deficit in total body fluid levels during a typical mission. It was causing them to feel weak, light headed and even to black out on re-entry or once they landed back on terra firma. That's not something you want to be dealing with when you’re trying to land a rather expensive space craft! 

    To combat this, NASA tested lots of drinks containing different carbohydrates and electrolyte mixtures and found that the more sodium you put in a drink, the more effective the drink would be at being retained in the body and bloodstream and correcting dehydration.

    So, how do you preload effectively?

    It’s about striking a balance between being aggressive enough to drive some extra fluid retention in your blood stream without this leading to gastro-intestinal issues or excessive fluid build-up making you feel bloated and sluggish.

    Typical sports drinks - which generally contain ~200 to 500mg of sodium per litre - simply don’t cut it when it comes to preloading as they're just way too dilute to make a meaningful difference to blood volume. The reality is it’s not vastly different from drinking water.

    At the other extreme, most of the scientific studies that have been conducted in this area have looked at using extremely strong electrolyte drinks containing ~3,600mg of sodium per litre. That's like drinking a bag of saline solution that would normally be put into you via an IV! Whilst this has been shown to be highly effective at boosting blood plasma volume, it’s has a tendency to cause upset stomachs, sickness or diarrhoea - something that is obviously very counterproductive when you're trying to improve your performance!

    One study back in 2014 looked at the effectiveness of 4 drink concentrations - Water, 1,380mg/l, 2,750mg/l and 3,680mg/l - to compare the effect they had on blood volume pre-exercise v how much sickness and diarrhoea they caused.

    The athletes drank a set amount (17ml per kg of body weight, so about 1.2l for an average sized 70kg athlete) of each of the drinks and the more sodium that was in it, the more blood volume was increased, as you'd expect. But with the strongest drink, 6 of the 8 athletes experienced diarrhoea compared with zero issues with the 1,380mg/l drink and plain water.

    That paper was of real interest to me as at Precision Hydration we’d already been experimenting with different concentrations of drink to use for preloading. I’d had lots of GI problems when trying 3,000mg/l+ drinks, so was already using less strong stuff and I was still finding it beneficial, so it was good to get some scientific confirmation that we were on the right track.

    In the end we settled on a strength of 1,500mg/l (32oz) for our preloading drinks  and these are available in the all-natural PH 1500 drink mix format as well as zero-calorie H2Pro Hydrate 1500 effervescent tablets. 1,500mg/l seemed to be the ‘sweet spot’ in that it's very palatable and easy on the gut (we never get comments about stomach upsets from using it) whilst still being effective at boosting your blood plasma volumes and getting you optimally hydrated before your start sweating.

    If you want to test whether preloading improves your performance, follow this protocol before your next long/intense training session or B-race.

    What to do

    • Drink 1 x PH 1500 with 500ml (16oz) of water the evening before your activity.
    • Drink 1 x PH 1500 with 500ml (16oz) of water about 90 minutes before you start. Finish your drink at least 45 minutes before you start to give your body time to fully absorb what it needs and pee out any excess.
    • Drink the PH 1500 in water you’d have drank anyway to ensure you don’t overdo it.
    • DON’T just drink lots of water in the build-up to a race. You can end up diluting your body’s sodium levels before you start, increasing the risk of hyponatremia.

    Why

    • Boosting your blood plasma volume before intense exercise is a proven way to enhance your performance, especially in hot conditions.
    • Having more blood makes it easier for your cardiovascular system to meet the competing demands of cooling you down and delivering oxygen to your muscles.
    • PH 1500 is very effective at increasing your plasma volume as it contains 3x more sodium than a typical sports drink. That extra sodium helps to pull water into your bloodstream and keep it there. This may allow you to get away with drinking considerably less in shorter/harder events where previously they would have had to try to consume more on the move (not easy when you’re flat out!). It can also help reduce the amount of times you need to pee before you start.
    • Preloading with PH 1500 can also help you avoid/alleviate muscle cramps, especially if you’re prone to suffering from them late on in events and especially when it’s hot. 89% of athletes with cramp who try preloading PH 1500 say that it solves their problems.
    • You can’t preload anywhere near as effectively with weaker sports drinks as you’ll lose a large proportion of the fluid as urine. Or it’ll slosh around in your stomach without being properly absorbed. 

    If you’re looking for a way to optimise your performance then testing sodium preloading is definitely worth a try. If you have any questions about how to preload effectively or need help optimising your approach, drop us an email.

    If you decide you’d like to use our all-natural, multi-strength electrolytes to personalise your hydration strategy, just use the code SUNDRIED to get 15% off your first order.

    Train hard,

     Andy

    Andy Blow has a few top 10 Ironman and 70.3 finishes and an Xterra World Age Group title to his name. He founded Precision Hydration to help athletes solve their hydration issues. He has a degree in Sport and Exercise Science and was once the Team Sports Scientist for Benetton and Renault F1 teams.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren