Ocean Swimming and Electrolyte Replacement
Our resident nonfiction writer extraordinaire Elaine Howley @emkhowley just published an informative article examining whether ocean swimmers should be including electrolyte replacement in their nutrition plans. Read it here:
There’s an insidious and potentially dangerous misconception floating around in the marathon swimming community: For swims like the English Channel that take place in cold, ocean water, swimmers don’t need to worry about electrolyte replacement.
This concept has been perpetuated by a handful of well-respected people in the community and is based on the incorrect assumption that swimmers who train and compete in cold water won’t sweat and thereby won’t deplete their electrolyte stores.
Well-written as always, Elaine!
I pretty much followed the same routine with respect to what I used during my feeds. The only differences was the frequency which I took them in. More often in hot water and spread out in colder water. I took on electrolytes every 15 minutes during my Channel swim (with carbs at the top of every hour). Key West and Lake Travis had feeds down to 8 minute intervals along with Success Caps (electrolyte capsules) every hour.
I'm not aware of any firm medical recommendations for electrolyte consumption in cold environments, so I tried (just now) searching PubMed.com for any related research, and couldn't come up with much. Just these two, by mostly the same set of authors and possibly about the same event (Iditasport ultramarathon):
Change in serum sodium concentration during a cold weather ultradistance race.
Conclusion: Decreased serum sodium concentration after a cold weather ultradistance race was due to fluid overload caused by excessive fluid consumption. Current recommendations that ultradistance athletes consume 500 to 1000 mL/h may be too high for athletes competing in the extreme cold.
Hyponatremia in a cold weather ultraendurance race
In conclusion, hyponatremia is common in an ultraendurance race held in the extreme cold, and may be caused by excessive fluid consumption and/or inadequate sodium intake.
I also found Training tips for bad weather, but I can't see any of it. The abstract page doesn't offer much more than "Tips for training in the cold and rain are outlined in this review.
For whatever it's worth, one of my coaches, who had a Ph.D in sports medicine something or other, recommended a serving of electrolytes every 4-6 hours during a cold swim, with fewer electrolytes needed in colder water. He may have been totally guessing though. I did a swim where my electrolyte drink was making me nauseous, and so I stopped consuming them for the final 12 hours of the swim. My post-swim blood work showed completely normal electrolyte levels -- which surprised the ER doctors.
When I first started out, I played around with several different types of electrolyte supplements in my feeds. Every single thing I tried (maybe 4-5 different things, in varying amounts) made me sick. I quit taking them after my 3rd or 4th marathon swim.
Maybe I get some from the apple juice in my feeds and that's good enough? But, all I take is my carbo pro, a slight amount of protein, water and apple juice. Swam for 30 hours on that combo and was fine- I kept wanting to quit, because swimming for 30 hours is stupid, but nothing was bothering me enough to justify it. Sure, I was tired- but my stomach was fine, I had no shoulder pain, and I was moving forward. I was tired and sore the next day, but no more so than earlier swims where I was taking electrolytes...
"**** Swam for 30 hours on that combo and was fine- I kept wanting to quit, because swimming for 30 hours is stupid, but nothing was bothering me enough to justify it. "
And there folks, you have our sport in a nutshell!!
It's not REALLY stupid... just different.
And to bring it back on topic.. who the heck thinks you don't sweat??
I've heard people in the gym talking about liking swimming because you don't sweat. I always took it to mean that they liked not getting that glow you do from dryland work. I would never in a million years have thought they honestly thought you don't sweat when swimming. I mean, if you're thirsty after a swim, what do you think happened?
(Yes, I know people are probably peeing in the pool, too. I try not to think about it too much)
Gym rats highlight their ignorance with stuff like that. Muscle-heads aren't necessarily athletes, so it isn't surprising that you'd come across attitudes like that.