Hydration More Or Less?

Hydration More Or Less?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Open water swimmers often discuss and debate what foods and drinks are best to use before, during and after training swims, races and solo marathon swims. An interesting research study – perhaps irrelevant, perhaps not, to swimmers – that demonstrated that elite distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia excel against international competition despite hydrating much less than their foreign competitors.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the UK and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia studied the unique dietary intake of the international successful African distance runners.

In addition to their medal-winning performances at the Olympics since 1968, the Kenyans and Ethiopians have also dominated many major marathons around the world.

The purpose of the study was to assess the dietary intake of highly-trained runners, living and training at high altitude (7,874 feet or 2,400 meters) during a seven-day period of intense training prior to a major competition.

The athletes’ body mass were well-maintained during the assessment period with a diet comprised of an average of 3,194 kcal and high in carbohydrates. Their diet consisted mainly of vegetables (approximately 88%) with the remaining percentage from meat sources.

Fluid intake comprised mainly of water (an average of 1,751 ml or 59 fluid ounces) while no fluids were consumed before or during training with only modest amounts following training.

So while the elite distance runners meet the recommended dietary recommendations for endurance athletes, they are still able to perform very well on the international level even without the recommended fluid intake.

Perhaps the results of this study indicate that either these runners still have much room for improvement, despite their current success, if they increase their fluid intake as recommended by nutritionists and physiologists – or their bodies have adapted well to the fluid intake they have been taking all their lives.

It is our hunch that it is a little bit of both.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones