Hydrating for Exercise

Sixty percent of our total body weight is water.  Water carries nutrients to cells and helps maintain our body temperature through sweat.  Staying fully hydrated helps our heart and muscles work more efficiently.

With the temperatures rising and summer running approaching, I thought it would be fitting to talk about staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise.  Drinking only when you’re thirsty should not be your goal.  Thirst occurs when we have already lost 1-2 liters of fluid!   So, to stay properly hydrated, it’s important to drink fluids regularly, rather than relying on thirst.

When we lose just 2% of body weight due to dehydration, our aerobic performance suffers.  In order to perform our best and feel our best, we should be fully hydrated before, during, and after exercise!

Prior to Exercise

The majority of people begin exercise fully hydrated.  It is recommended to drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercise and another 8 oz. about 20 minutes before beginning.  (If the color of your urine is dark yellow, more fluids are needed).   I always have a cup of coffee before running as I’m sure many runners do!  The good news is “caffeine intake has little effect on hydration status with exercise.” 

During Exercise

The purpose of fluid intake during exercise is to prevent dehydration (decreased body fluid) and hyponatremia (low sodium level in the blood).  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Try to drink the same amount of fluid that you lose in sweat.  An easy way to determine this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise.  Everyone is different and has different sweat rates but it is advised to drink 8-16 oz. per hour.  (Compared to men, women have lower sweat rates and reduced electrolyte losses).
  • During exercise sessions lasting 90 minutes or longer or if heavy sweating occurs, fluids with sodium are recommended.  Sports drinks are very helpful in replenishing sodium loss.  Another alternative is to consume extra sodium with food before a long exercise session.
  • To minimize fatigue during exercise, consume a sports drink that contains carbohydrate.  Also, if you plan on exercising for longer than an hour, it is recommended to take in carbohydrate with your fluids.  Muscle glycogen stores are depleted with prolonged exercise.  To sustain performance levels and prevent tiredness, you should try to get 30-60 grams of carbs that are quickly absorbed for every hour of training.  Sports drinks come in handy during endurance exercise, as they can replace fluids, sodium, and glucose.  There are many different types of sports drinks and it’s best to use trial and error to figure out which brand you like and see that it doesn’t cause stomach issues.  Most races have a sports drink available during the event. If you plan to take advantage of this, then you should find out what brand is being used and practice with it during training to make sure it works for you.

Post Exercise

After exercising, your goal should be to make up for any fluid imbalance that occurred during your training.  This includes water to restore hydration, carbs to restock glycogen stores, and electrolytes to boost rehydration.  Symptoms of severe dehydration are nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.  If this occurs, you may need to have fluids replaced intravenously (put directly into a vein).

Most athletes can fully rehydrate with their usual meals, snacks, and fluids.  If you plan on training within 12 hours or less after your session, you should try to drink about 1.5 liters of fluid for each 2 pound lost.

How much should you be drinking to perform your best? Hydrating for Exercise. Click To Tweet

It’s important to note that the human body is able to tolerate substantial changes in fluid intake while exercising and at rest with little or no effects on health.  Because of this, most recreational exercisers will never experience hyponatremia or severe dehydration.  Prolonged or intense exercise in extreme heat does increase health risk.

To be safe, feel good, and perform your best, it is essential to drink water throughout the day and try to maintain body water stores.  Don’t just rely on thirst.  Make water easily available, bring a water bottle with you when your on the go, or even set a reminder on your phone.  Take charge, have a plan,  and drink up!

How do you make sure you’re drinking enough fluids?

Do you like sports drinks?  What is your favorite?


Should I Eat That?

When we eat whole, real foods, such as a banana, a sweet potato, or beans, we know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies.  But, when we consume items that have a large ingredient label, it’s hard to know if all those additives are safe to eat or if they might pose a risk to our health.

I know some people probably don’t care to look at food labels or ingredient lists while at the grocery store.  Maybe they don’t have time or they trust that all the ingredients are safe.  But being health conscientious, I read over the ingredient list before making a purchase.  It may drive my husband and kids nuts, but I like to know what I’m eating!

Years ago it was much easier to decide on what foods to buy, as there weren’t as many processed foods available.  Today, food “products” are so widely available and chemical additives have become a large part of one’s diet.  According to Science Daily,  “highly processed food makes up 60% of the calories in food we buy.”  

Of course, there are hundreds of chemical additives that are used, so I am only going to go over some of the more common ones.  Let me add that most additives are considered safe but there are some that can be of risk and are best to avoid.


  • Citric acid:  Flavoring and adds tanginess.   It is versatile, cheap and widely used.
  • Erythritol:   Low calorie, sugar free sweetener.  The only safety concern is that eating too much may cause nausea.
  • Maltodextrin:  Improves texture.  Made from starch usually from corn, potato, or rice.
  • Mono and diglycerides:  Emulsifier (prevents ingredients from separating).  Although safe, most of the foods they are used in are high in refined flour, sugar, or fat.
  • Polyglycerol polyricinoleate:  Emulsifier used in chocolate candy and margarine.
  • Stearic Acid:  Antioxidant, chewing gum base, flavoring, and anti-caking agent.  This is a fatty acid that is in virtually all fats.

CUT BACK: Not toxic but large amounts may be unsafe or promote bad nutrition

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup:  Sweetener.  It’s cheaper and easier to use than sugar.  Large amounts promote tooth decay and also increases triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood.
  • Invert Sugar:  Sweetener that is a mixture of half fructose and half dextrose.  This supplies “empty” calories and leads to tooth decay.
  • Polydextrose:  Bulking agent. Poorly digested.  Eaten in excess may have a laxative effect in sensitive people.
  • Sorbitol:  Sweetener, thickening agent, helps maintain moisture.  It occurs naturally in fruits and berries.  It is absorbed slowly and doesn’t cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.  Large amounts may have a strong laxative effect.
  • Xylitol:  Sweetener.  It’s the sweetest of the sugar alcohols.  It doesn’t promote tooth decay, but large amounts can have a laxative effect.  While xylitol is safe for humans, even small amounts can be fatal to dogs!

CAUTION:  May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid

  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT):  Antioxidant.  Delays the rancidity in oils.  Small amounts occur in human fat.  BHT isn’t really needed and can be easily replaced with safe substitutes.
  • Carrageenan:  Thickener, stabilizer, and fat replacer.   It comes from certain seaweeds and is indigestible.  Could cause gastrointestinal issues in some people.
  • Polysorbate 60, 65, and 80:  Emulsifier.  It keeps baked goods from going stale and prevents oil from separating out of artificial whipped cream. It’s possible that it may disrupt the gut.  To determine long term effects, more research needs to be done.
  • Transglutaminase (“meat glue”):  Enzyme to bind proteins.  This is never found on ingredient labels as it’s mainly used by restaurant chefs.  It’s a natural enzyme, but it’s used to trick consumers.  It is used by chef’s to “glue” together scraps of meat to sell as a steak, bind bacon to meat, and improve cheese texture.

CERTAIN PEOPLE SHOULD AVOID:  May trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance or other problems

  • Artificial and Natural Flavoring: Hundreds of chemical are used to imitate natural flavors and are pretty much solely used in junk foods.  It is not required for companies to list the identity of these flavorings on food labels, which is not good for people with certain sensitivities to flavorings such as MSG or HVP.
  • Guar Gum:  Thickening agent and stabilizer.  Gums are made from natural sources and are most likely safe, but are insufficiently tested.  Also, they are not absorbed by the body.  Gums are often used in ice creams, salad dressings, and baked goods.
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP):  Flavor enhancer that consists of vegetable protein, usually soybean.  It contains MSG and can cause harmful reactions in sensitive people.
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG):  Flavor enhancer.  Companies that use MSG are able to lessen the amount of real ingredients in their food.  Studies show that some people are sensitive to MSG and can have symptoms such as headache, nausea, weakness, changes in heart rate, and difficulty breathing.
  • Sulfites:  Preservative that prevents discoloration (dried fruit) and bacterial growth (wine).  Sulfites impair vitamin B-1 and can cause serious reactions to sensitive people and people with asthma.

AVOID:  Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk

  • Artificial Colorings (blue 1 & 2, red 3 & 40, yellow 5 & 6):  Synthetic food dyes are pretty much only used in junk foods (no nutritional value) so it’s best to avoid all dyed foods.  Synthetic dyes have been know to cause hyperactivity in sensitive kids.  Red 3 was actually recommended by the FDA to be banned but was overruled.  Red 40 is the most used dye and is tested the most.  It can cause allergy- like reactions.  Yellow 5 is the second most commonly used and can cause allergy like reactions mostly in people who have a sensitivity to aspirin.  Yellow 6 can also cause hypersensitivity reactions.
  • Aspartame:  Artificial sweetener (Equal, NutraSweet).  There has been several studies on aspartame.  It has been know to cause headaches and dizziness in some people.  The ultimate conclusion is that three studies have shown aspartame causes cancer in rats, and one study found  that it can increase cancer risk in men (due to higher levels of a certain enzyme).  It’s also recommended that pregnant women and children avoid this sweetener.
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA):  Antioxidant that delays the rancidity in oils and fats.  The US Dept. of Health and Human Services consider BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen“, but the FDA still allows BHA to be used.
  • Mycoprotein:  Meat substitute in Quorn brand foods. This is made from processed mold and can cause serious, even fatal allergic reactions.  The product’s label states that it is made from a mushroom protein, but this isn’t the case.  It is made from a mold that is grown in a liquid solution.  Apparently, many people have visited the ER to be treated for reactions from Quorn products.
  • Olestra:  Fat substitute that isn’t absorbed and has no calories used in snack chips.  It has been known to cause diarrhea, cramping, and loose stools.
  • Trans Fat (Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil):  Fat, oil, shortening.  Trans fats promote heart disease.  In 2006, nutrition facts labels had to start listing the amount of trans fat per serving in the product.   Foods labeled with zero grams of trans fats are allowed to have .5 grams of trans fat per serving.  So, consumers must read the ingredient label and if partially hydrogenated oil is listed, then the food does in deed contain trans fat.  In 2015, the FDA gave the food industry three years to remove trans fats from its products after concluding that it’s not safe.
Should I eat that? Find out which food additives are safe! Click To Tweet

This is a short list of chemical additives that can be our food.  To see a complete list you can go to the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.  It’s really eye opening!  I think its fair to say that just because an additive is used in a food product, it doesn’t mean that it is totally safe to consume.  We need to be diligent about checking food labels so we know exactly what we are eating and determine for ourselves if it is safe to eat.

Do you check ingredient lists?

Did any of these additives surprise you?


*Reference:  Center for Science in the Public Interest website*

Flying Pig Half Marathon Recap

I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon on Sunday, May 7.  This is my first race recap so hopefully I will remember everything!

I originally signed up (last Oct) for the full marathon.  Then, what I thought was a case of runner’s knee, ended up being a knee cap tracking disorder.  Zero running in December and a few weeks of physical therapy allowed me to get back running.  I decided on switching to the half marathon since I didn’t have the proper amount of time to increase my mileage for a full marathon.  So, I was thankful to be running this race at all!!  I have run 3 Flying Pig marathons and this was my second time participating in the half marathon.

Race Week The week before the race, I ran a total of 11 miles (5, 4, and 2 miler).  The race was on a Sunday and my last run was on Thursday.  I made sure to drink lot’s of water during this week.  I downloaded the Water Time Pro app on my phone which sent me reminders to drink water.  It really did help, although it got annoying at times!  This week, I also constantly checked the weather.  Fortunately, the forecast looked decent.

Race ExpoThe race expo is held on the Friday and Saturday before the race.  I always go on Friday and try to get there right when the doors open to avoid the crowds.  I pick up my bib, t-shirt, poster, and backpack.   I don’t know what it is, but I always look forward to the expo!  It’s fun to walk around and feel the excitement of the up-coming races.  There are many booths, vendors, and lots of running gear items that you can purchase.  The only thing I am sure to buy are the “pig pops” for my daughters.  They are too cute and the girls love them!

Pre-race dinner:  I’ve been eating the same meal the night before a half or full marathon for several years now.  Stick with what works!  I use a Udi’s gluten free pizza crust and top it with pizza sauce, mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives and nutritional yeast.  It tastes good and I’ve never had any stomach issues.

Race MorningThe race starts at 6:30 am.  I set my alarm (actually 2 alarms!) for 4:00 am.  Pre-race breakfast was a Udi’s gluten free bagel with almond butter and banana, 1 cup of coffee, and 16 oz. of water.

I found this sweet encouraging note left by my daughter:

The temperature was 38 degrees.  I don’t like to be cold, so I wore capri pants, a tank top, and a long sleeve half-zip shirt, which ended up working out fine.  I’m so thankful for my husband who offers to drop me off at the race.  We leave the house at 5:30 am and I get to the starting area around 6:00.  A nice perk of this race is the location of the starting line.  It’s near Paul Brown Football Stadium, so all race participants can use the restrooms inside the stadium.  You can hang out and keep warm if needed, as the starting area is only a couple minute walk from here.  The corrals or “pigpens” are color coded and clearly labeled A thru H.  Your corral number is on your bib and it is checked by volunteers before letting you in.  I headed to corral B at 6:15.

RaceI really didn’t have a race plan.  I was just happy to be running (after my knee issues)!  When the gun went off, I just ran by feel.  I am usually hesitant to start off too fast in fear of crashing half way through.  Around mile 4, as we were running over a bridge (you run over two bridges as the course takes you across the Ohio River to KY and back during the first 4 miles), the 1:45 pace group was right behind me.  Once I realized this, my goal was to stay ahead of them.  Looking back, if that pace group wasn’t there, I might have slacked off.

There are 11 fluid stations (water and Gatorade) along the half marathon course and GU energy gel available at mile 9.  I think at mile 2 is when I first got water.  I could tell right away that my stomach was not going to handle much water.  I’m not sure why this happened?  Regardless, every few miles I tried to take a few sips of water.  I typically don’t use fuel at half marathons, but I had put a Honey Stinger Gold gel in my pocket just in case.  Turns out I didn’t use it.

Miles 7 and 8 were my slowest mile splits.  These were the hills.  I think miles 6 thru 9 are the most challenging.  Although, it is a beautiful part of the course, as you run through Eden Park, but the hills are rough.  I knew the hills were there, but it never gets easier!

The half and full marathoners split at mile 9.  From here to the finish line is pretty much down hill!  From here on, I tried to run as fast as I could.  My legs were feeling a little sore, but I wanted to finish strong.

As I headed towards the finish line (“finish swine” as they call it), I was looking for my husband and daughters.  I’m so lucky to have them at the finish line!  I look forward to seeing them and hearing “Go Mom!”


My finish time was 1:43:01.  I am happy with my time and so thankful that I was able to participate in this year’s Flying Pig!  The race is so well organized and the volunteers and spectators are awesome.  I don’t think there is one area on the course that doesn’t have people cheering the runners on.  It really does make a difference having the support.

Once you receive your medal and mylar blanket, you head to the recovery area.  There is plenty of water and food available to all the finishers.

After getting through the recovery area, you head to the Victory Party where there is food and live music.  They make it easy to meet up with family and friends with flags marked with the letters of the alphabet.

Recovery:  After the race, I felt pretty good.  My quads and shins are sore.  I’ve never had sore shins after a race.  Not sure why this happened?  I’ve been wearing compression socks, using the foam roller, and drinking plenty of water.   The plan this week is to rest and go for a short run on Friday.  We’ll see how that goes!

The Flying Pig is an outstanding race and if you ever get a chance, I would definitely give it a try.  2018 is the 20th Anniversary of the race and I plan to tackle the full marathon to celebrate!