Practical Hydration and Sports Nutrition Advice for Summer

If ever there was an event where sports nutrition could make or break a group of athletes, it was the 2014 ATOC Race Experience. Including the coaches we had more than 20 amateur cyclists on the road, with an average age of 50 years old. We rode more than 730 miles in 8 days in temperatures that at times topped 110 degrees. Most days took between 4-6 hours, and on the stage that finished on top of Mount Diablo, several athletes were out on the road for seven-and-a-half hours. In total, I spent a little more than 40 hours on the bike during those 8 days.

While it certainly helped that we were eating the same great breakfasts and dinners that the pro teams were eating in the athletes’ dining room, the fuel that made a real difference was what the athletes consumed outside of mealtimes. I know to some of you this is going to read like an infomercial but what I’m hoping you’ll see is that we put these products to the test with normal athletes under extreme conditions, and the results were remarkable. I’ve listed some of those results below, and as we head into the hot days of summer I hope you’ll apply some of what we’ve learned to your own training in order to have great performances.

No stomach issues
When you’re doing 700+ kilojoules of work per hour and burning more than 3,000 calories on the bike each day, you end up eating a lot of food to keep your energy levels up. Trying to replenish 20-30% of the calories expended each hour meant consuming 140-210 calories/hr on the bike, which we did primarily through a combination ofWhen you’re doing 700+ kilojoules of work per hour and burning more than 3,000 calories on the bike each day, you end up eating a lot of food to keep your energy levels up. Trying to replenish 20-30% of the calories expended each hour meant consuming 140-210 calories/hr on the bike, which we did primarily through a combination of  Bolt chewables, Fuel bars from ProBarand Active Hydration sports drink from Osmo Nutrition.

The ability to continue digesting and processing calories is dependent on your hydration status and impacted by core temperature. If you’re dehydrated and/or experiencing heat stress, digestion slows and there’s an increased likelihood that you’ll experience gastric distress. In the past year or two there has been some evidence to show that solid foods perform better than gels when you consider the impact that digesting food has on an athlete’s hydration status and core temperature. CTS has been providing only solid foods since the beginning of the year, and although it is only anecdotal, our experience thus far with 200+ athletes across our winter and spring camps – and the ultra-hot Tour of California Race Experience – supports those findings.

No cramping
As I wrote in a column for Road Bike Action, cramping often comes down to fatigue or a hydration error. We had virtually no issues with muscle (or stomach) cramps during the ATOC Race Experience, which is a testament to the preparedness of the athletes and to their diligence with hydration and nutrition. One of the differences between this year and last year (when it was also hot) was the addition of Osmo PreLoad. This drink contains an ultra-high concentration of sodium and is designed to be sipped (not chugged) the evening before and the morning of an intense and/or high-temperature activity. The idea is that it’s a “hyper-hydrator” that expands your blood plasma volume (increases the watery component of your blood). By the middle of the Tour of California Race Experience, bottles of PreLoad were as popular as the cookies served for dessert.

More bottles consumed – per person, per day, and per camp – than any previous sports drink

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Since the beginning of the year we’ve noticed that we go through more bottles of Osmo Active Hydration per athlete, per day, and per camp than any previous sports drink. And that’s great! All the sport science in the world won’t help you if it’s still in your bottle. Getting athletes to consume adequate fluid – water or sports drink – has always been an issue, and it becomes even more of an issue as temperatures and workout/event durations increase. This year and last year have been pretty similar in terms of weather conditions and athlete composition at camps, but fluid consumption is way up. Again, the evidence is only anecdotal but as far as we know the only substantive change has been the transition to Osmo. Why are athletes drinking more Osmo than previous drinks? For one thing, the flavor is very, very light. Research has shown that bolder flavors become overwhelming for athletes when they try to consume large volumes of fluid. So, a very lightly flavored drink is easier to consume in large quantities. The caloric content of the drink is also lighter than typical sports drinks, which enables athletes to consume more fluids without overloading their guts with calories.

Have a Great Weekend
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 9

  1. Pingback: Heat Illness and Endurance Athletes: The Science of Staying Safe When It Gets Hot - CTS

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  3. As previous stated here, i also have a huge respect for CTS and use Hammer products specifically the Perpetuem for longer century rides mainly for the protein component. as stated below. Prior to using this i had severe muscle burn around mile 90 and as well my findings are just based my own experience.. after using slightly less than directed i could ride 100+ with no problems (that and making sure my cadence never hit below 90). i was under the understnading that protein intake during the longer rides was essential… here is the marketing pitch from hammer’s perpetuim “” Protein – A calcium-enhanced soy protein isolate known as “XT” makes up nearly 10% of the caloric profile of Perpetuem, the same percentage that is cannibalized from muscle tissue during long, slow endurance workouts. This particular soy protein contains a very high amount of intact, cardiovascular-enhancing isoflavones.””..yes all of this is very confusing….AND thank you again for the emails…i always look forward to them and often repost on my FB account,,

  4. I have complete respect for your opinions and advice. So much so that I may try Osmo. However, I’m using Hammer products now, and Hammer strongly suggest that pre-loading with sodium is a big mistake. Frankly, taking 4,050 mg of sodium (dosage for my weight) the night before and also the morning of the race seems like an incredibly large amount of sodium. Differing advice from several seemingly credible companies is confusing. And frustrating that there isn’t a scientific consensus about what works best. I realize I should experiment and test, but long endurance races are coming up soon and I hate to make last minute changes. HOWEVER, cramping has been a problem for me. So I’m desperate to try something that might solve the problem. Advice?

    1. Post

      We completely agree that there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, and we also recognize that new developments in sports science continue to occur. If you have long endurance events coming up soon, I wouldn’t recommend making a change until after your events. During a period when you have some time to test out new nutrition strategies, perhaps give the Osmo a try. Anecdotally, at our camps this year and during the super-hot ATOC we have seen a significant decrease in cramping and stomach upset from athletes who normally suffer from one or both.

      1. Thanks, I tried Osmo pre-hydration drink on a six hour test ride (1 serving the evening prior and 1 serving one-half hour prior to start, per instructions. And I also consumed more electrolytes during the ride than I had in the past. I pushed harder than usually because I was testing for cramping. And I started with tired legs due to a previous day’s hard ride. Despite starting with tired legs, and going harder than normal for an endurance race (it was challenging to maintain pace), I had no cramping issues! I intend to try Osmo again at an upcoming endurance race on June 22.

  5. As I am competing in an Ironman Triathlon in 2 weeks I have really appreciated this and the previous advice on nutrition. I won’t use the stuff you recommend on this occasion but will keep it in mind for future races.
    I live in Australia and visiting or doing one of your camps or tours is on my bucket list.
    I bought on line the Train right Progressive Power series and have used that as my Turbo Sessions mixing it up as required.. I like Zena and the rubber man. That series was done in 2007(I think) and it is interesting to see changes and in some cases lack of change in technique and ideas on all facets of training, change is inevitable as we learn I guess.
    I alo have read Chris’s books on triathlon and cycling they helped lots.
    Anyway I digress thanks for the info from a follower Down Under.

  6. I’ve been using both the Osmo Active and the Probar Bolt with much success. Certainly not to the extreme levels of the pro’s but, nonetheless, a favorable combo for the weeknight racer and weekend rider.

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