By: Vishal Patel, Chief Nutritionist
Pre-loading electrolytes (or hyper hydration) has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Recent studies have shown that hyper hydrating can increase your performance during endurance exercise by increasing the availability of fluids and electrolytes, and it's a practice I've personally seen training benefits from.
Have you ever bonked during a long run and reached for a gel or a chew? There are actually two possible reasons. In most cases, your body needs carbs for fuel. But in some cases, your body is having difficulty circulating water and electrolytes. By pre-loading electrolytes, you help ensure your body has what it needs to deliver fluid to your muscles during exercise. Drastically increasing your consumption of sodium and fluids can help increase circulation of water and nutrients in your blood, so your muscles can be firing on all cylinders.
Before we dig in deeper, please note: hyper hydration should only be practiced prior to an endurance workout (3+ hours), in high heat and humidity conditions, or if you are a particularly heavy/salty sweater. The benefits of pre-loading may sound appealing, but consuming this level of sodium citrate can have a negative impact on your athletic performance if your body isn't working hard or stressed.
So what is hyper hydration?
It's the practice of loading up on sodium citrate and fluid to reduce the physiological strain that comes with endurance exercise. What hyper hydration drills down to is expanding blood volume by expanding body water. The electrolytes in our products convert into citrates when mixed with water, which provides most bio available (and easily absorbed) form of electrolytes to allow fluid to circulate properly.
Why should you hyper hydrate?
Endurance exercise puts a lot of stress on the circulatory system. And if you're not properly hydrating, the stress can only increase. Hyper hydration has also been known to expand plasma volume, which is crucial to cardiovascular function. With proper expansion, exercise performance has been shown to increase. Pre-loading fluids and sodium prior to a tough workout or race will increase the availability of those nutrients, so when the muscles need more energy, the right nutrients can help fuel them.
When and how should you hyper hydrate?
As mentioned earlier, strategies to hyper hydrate should not occur before every workout. You should only use these tips when gearing up for a long workout or race lasting at least 3 hours. You'll need to consume roughly 2,000 mg of sodium citrate, which will trigger your body to store the additional sodium and help keep it circulating in your blood stream.
The night before, consume a ½ strength pre-load mix: 3 tablets of Nuun Electrolytes w/ 16 fl oz water
The morning of, consume a full strength pre-load mix: 6 tablets of Nuun Electrolytes w/ 16 fl oz water. Drink over the course of an hour.
(You read that right: 6 tablets. And yes, this will taste extra salty. My favorite flavor for pre-loading is Nuun Electrolytes Orange, as it has a less intense salt flavor.)
And to complete the pre-loading process, consume 1 serving of Nuun Performance in 16 ounces of water, up to one hour prior to exercise.
Hi Glen. Muscle cramps can be caused by a few things, including an electrolyte imbalance. If you’re cramps were caused by dehydration, pre-hydrating before the race can help. For a half marathon, we wouldn’t recommend hyper hydrating but you would still want to focus on proper hydration in the days leading up to the race.
Does hyper hydration help me to prevents muscle cramps during a marathon?
I suffered muscle cramps in Chicago Marathon from 26th kilometer… and noticed a lot of salt in my body when I finished.
Can I hyper hydrate for a half marathon?
Vicente, we’d recommend to hydrate as normal with performance.
If I do the full strength pre-load mix in a 100k trial race, who many tabs do you recommend during the race?
Hi Sara! Great question. We’d recommend using the ½ strength pre-load mix: 3 tablets of Nuun Electrolytes w/ 16 fl oz water - the night before and the morning of!
Is this practice recommended for sub-3:00 marathoners?