Posts Tagged ‘Electrowhatsits?’

It’s been drilled into our heads that we must hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Hydrate like your life depends on it which, in a way, it does I guess.  But, regardless, it could be said that hydration is a unique discipline to triathlon all unto and in of itself, worthy of its own specific recognition and focus.  And I’m not talking about just any liquids here either like juice, coffee, tea, or whatever, I’m strictly talking about water, bitch, the free shit.  How hard should that be, right?  But then you throw in all the necessary electrolytes and all that other crap you also need and that simple equation becomes much more difficult.  And not speak for any others out there but, for me, it’s pretty freakin’ hard remembering to drink enough ‘good’ water throughout the day.  Sure, I hydrate during my workouts (refer to the linked article above), but drinking adequately throughout the rest of the day is extremely important too and this is where I often fall short.  Until now…

My problem is that basic, run-of-the-mill water tastes like, well, nothing really.  Flavor wise, it’s about as exciting as dust bunnies.  And given that I need to be consuming approximately 12-16 glasses a day, that’s a lot of dust bunnies to get excited about.  I find that hard to do, particularly when there are other more tasty options out there like juice, coffee, tea, or…*gasp*…beer.  Knowwhatimsayin?

Of course, unless you work at home like myself, or have access to a proper water cooler at your office place (which I don’t), most of us probably will rely on the easily procured bottled variety.  Still the same ‘ol boring shit, but now it even comes with a rather substantial price tag attached to it.  It never ceases to amaze me that WATER, a basic building block required for life is more costly than your average can of soda pop, or whatever carbonated sugary beverage you prefer.  It’s as insane as it is unfair.

But never fear the ‘Tightwad Triathlete’ has the perfect hydration strategy to address this concern that simply goes beyond keeping your water glass full with the Brita filter in the refrigerator, or stocking up on cases of bottled water.  The answer:

An important investment in your health.

An important investment in your health.

That’s right; you’re basic household Mason jar that you can find at any neighborhood garage sale or thrift shop for mere pennies.  Here’s the plan…

Each and every day, fill several Mason jars with not only water, but a selection of fruit and, sometimes, herbs.  After an hour or two, that water is automatically transformed into something healthy, delicious and instantly ready to be consumed.  You can then dump this water into your water bottle prior to your workouts, or simply into your water glass throughout the normal workday to ensure that you maintain your adequate hydration needs.  Afterwards, simply refill the Mason jar with another water-fruit concoction and place it back in the fridge for your next visit.  If you have to go to the office, just bring a few of those jars with you and then refill them when you get home for the next day.  Easy, right?

24 hours worth of hydration ready to go...

24 hours worth of hydration ready to go (minus the bottle of gin)…

The fun part is that you get to experiment with different fruits and herbs to create something that is both unique and tasty, while it is still practically guaranteed to be 100% healthy.  With a single trip to the market you can practically acquire enough ingredients to provide virtually an infinite number of possible water concoctions to consume throughout the regular day.  So far, I have experimented with mixing together strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, lychees, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, kiwis, cucumber, mint, basil, and rosemary…and I’m nowhere near finished experimenting yet.

Just a couple of possible flavor combinations...

Just a couple of possible flavor combinations…

Besides getting your electrolytes, practically any of these partnered water flavors will also aid in your digestion and assist with internal cleansing; help you with your weight management by reducing your appetite (for those looking to shed a few pounds – like myself); and help you alleviate everything from heart burn, to bodily wrinkles, to bad breathe to indigestion or gas.  In some cases, particularly if you add a bit of honey to the mix, they will provide you with new levels of energy or even just an improvement in your overall ‘blah’ mood during the day. Hey, a bloated, dehydrated triathlete is not a happy triathlete, am I right?  The best part is, that this constant circulation of yummy water through your system will also aid in the movement through your body of all those great vitamins and minerals you are, hopefully, conscientious about consuming throughout the day.  Pretty awesome, huh?

Not bad for a few cheap Mason jars.  Peace, love, hydrate.

Judging by the number of new yoga mats, pristine prAna shirts and assorted fancy bric-a-brac in this mornings yoga class, Santa was very good to some people this year (myself included, of course).  Of course, this also means that Santa’s coffers will be rather limited in the coming months as well so any opportunity to save some dough will be greatly taken advantage of I expect.

Recipe for success

Prior to this whole Ironman quest, I thought that ‘electrolytes’ were just citizens of ‘Electrolyia’, like something out of a C.S. Lewis novel; Lord knows I was never the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Of course, now, I understand that electrolytes are the minerals in your blood and other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge, and seeing as how the human body is basically one big “electrical machine”, these are some pretty significant necessities in order to make this machine operate effectively.  Typically, they exist as acids, bases and salt.

If deprived of water and electrolytes, your muscles cramp, you get dizzy and weak, and perspiration no longer cools you. Your core body temperature begins rising, and you may progress from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke.  The latter is potentially fatal…definitely Not Winning.

However, there is no need to convince me of the value of replacing fluids and electrolytes during an intense ride or a long day running in the backcountry: I know that it’s vital to drink smart.  I get it.  The problem is that your basic electrolyte replacement drink can amount up to big money…particularly when you need to be consuming a LOT of it, and Santa is on sabbatical for another 12 months.  Fortunately, creating your own electrolyte drink is not very difficult, or expensive.  In fact, it’s pretty cheap and easy to do.

The basic formula goes a little something like this:

1)      Water – Water is the main ingredient as it will act as the primary carrier of the electrolytes.  It must be as clean as possible to work optimally.  If you do not have the luxury of a home bottled water dispenser, simply boil water in a tea kettle.  Incidentally, distilled water – the captured vapor from boiling water – is the best.  It is very close to pure water, having almost all trace elements such as minerals, pollutants and other contaminants, removed.  If you want distilled water, it’s best to purchase it because collecting the vapor is difficult to do at home – trust me.  Tap water should only be your last resort (think ‘Brain Eating Amoebas’, and that should motivate you some).

2)      Salt – Electrolytes are basically salts. Salts keep your body’s electrically conductive to maintain cell voltage for receiving or passing along information. Regular table salt works fine as long as it contains sodium chloride, which almost all salts are made of.  Some also have potassium iodide, which is also excellent for your home electrolyte cocktail. If you can locate fine grain salt, it dissolves much faster. Using a mortar and pestle on regular salt work just as well.  Personally, I like to use the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt variety.

3)      Citrus – Oranges, grapefruits, tangerine, lemons and limes – try to always have lots of these on hand as they are the best ingredients for electrolyte replenishment.  Oranges are a particularly good choice (and tastiest in my opinion).  This is why you may have seen many athletes gorging themselves on juicy slices, both pre and post-race.  Citrus fruits are great, even alone, for electrolytes.  However, adding some other sweet ingredients can enhance the effect (like honey, or coconut water).

How easy is that?  To make things even easier for you, I’ve included two of my recent favorite home electrolyte brews for you to give a go:

Recipe 1

  • 1 can orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • water

Recipe 2

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon light salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • water

If you want to simply these recipes even further, or if you’re just in a pinch for time, just add a few orange, lemon or lime slices to your ordinary sports water bottle along with a pinch of salt and, Voila!, instant electrolytes!  Who needs Santa after all?

  • Long Swim – Endurance 4 (click to see stats)
  • 1900 m (50:11)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 136 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 157 bpm
  • Calories = 589

So ¾ through my swim workout this evening I fell victim to the mother of all cramps; a total seizure of the muscle from my ankle to the top of my right calf.  Needless to say that my workout was cut a bit short – only a half a kilometer to be exact – but still, what the fuck?  I’ve had minor cramping issues before, but nothing like this.  Furthermore, I’ve had no injury issues up until this point this year so this was a bit of an added wake up call.

Upon getting home I immediately began Googling ‘calf cramps’, specifically during swimming, and discovered that there may be a few issues happening with me.  I learned that the whole issue of cramping in the water may be summed up simply by the inappropriate action of plantar flexing your foot which is something we learned as children during our swimming lessons.  I remember my swimming instructor at the community pool, probably not a day over 17 herself, instructing me to “point my toes” when I kick.  Not bad instruction per se, but the problem with pointing your toes as a deliberate (or even unconscious) action, however, is that it remains the primary reason behind the cramp that many triathletes experience at swim practice. The fact of this matter is that if we simply allow our feet to flick around as we kick, the ankles will actually pull back into this correct position automatically. And even more importantly, when relaxed the toes will pull the foot back into the correct position without tension, ie correct kicking action, less energy.

Cramps (for me anyway), tend to occur after pushing off the wall and then sprinting (as was the case tonight, leaving me in the middle of the pool fighting to stay afloat while supporting my paralyzed leg).  The explosive and repeated plantar flexing action of my ankles (eg. when sprinting) can quickly sneak up on the body causing tightness and finally cramp. No fun – let me tell you!  Commonly, there are three main areas where a cramp may choose to set up shop, and it should be no wonder that all 3 of those areas pull with muscle contractions upon one other when you point your toes; the calf (most common), the arch of the foot (I’ve also experienced this), and the toes.  But regardless of where it occurs, what do I do about it as I hate the frustrating feeling of having to quit a workout for any reason.

1. Electrolyte Imbalance – Before I hopped into the pool tonight, I also completed a 45 minute spin class, participated in a 45 minute yoga session and then stayed for an extra 20 minute core session until the lane swim started.  In other words, I had already sweated out a lot of salt and water out of my body putting my electrolyte balance all off-kilter before I even started my swim workout.  Coupled with the fact that I have never been a super-hydrator at the best of times, this then could have completely engineered my ultimate Waterloo tonight in the pool.  Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple:  hydrate more, you jackass!  Okay, done.

2. Tight ankles – As I’ve never been a great kicker while swimming anyway, my range of motion in my ankle may be very limited.  But as I improve the range of movement that my ankle has, so will kicking be that much easier (I hope). In the meantime, to assist with this current lack of flexibility I can further stretch my ankle by regularly sitting on top of them (heels together).  No problem – I can add this to my regular yoga sessions.  Done.

3. Insufficient intake of magnesium – Magnesium has been used widely for clinical manifestation of muscle cramps, with good success. Research has shown that it is not just deficient individuals that benefit from supplementation; rather it has been hypothesized that everyone can benefit from its ability to stabilize cellular membranes. Magnesium is critical to cellular functioning in terms of energy production, cell reproduction, and protein formation. It is essential for energy production. Magnesium is also pivotal to maintain control of the sodium and potassium pump.  I don’t really want to have to become reliant on supplements if I can help it, however, I can increase the amount of magnesium rich foods in my diet like artichokes, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, black beans, halibut, and oat bran (God help me) among others. Worse comes to worse – I can bite the bullet and purchase an added magnesium supplement. Whatever the case, I should cognizant to consume approximately 800-1200-milligrams per day, careful not exceed that as magnesium can also cause you to develop diarrhea, and that’s a whole other world of swim issues that I don’t care to discover.


Action Plan:


1)      Drink more water. Keep a liter water bottle at my desk at work and see that it gets finished each and every day before leaving for home.  Likewise, hydrate more while exercising.

2)      Improve ankle flexibility. Add stretching out my ankles to my regular yoga sessions, or even while at home in front of the television after my long runs/rides/whatever.

3)      More magnesium.  Begin accounting for approximately 800-milligrams of magnesium into my diet.  I can add pumpkin seeds to my salads, ground almonds to my protein smoothies, have some steamed broccoli for afternoon snacks, etc.