While there can be several pronounced and noticeable symptoms to let you know that you are not meeting your energy, electrolyte and fluid needs during your longer or more intense workouts, like headache, not feeling the urge to urinate during a long workout or for hours after the workout, nausea, bloating, fatigue, muscle aches/throbbing and dizziness, you may notice that even without a health or performance-related issue, with the intense summer heat, something is still off with your fueling and hydrating strategy.
Important note: the symptoms I mentioned are not "normal" just because you are an athlete, training hard, wanting to get faster or leaner or training for a long distance event.
Over the next few blogs, you will learn a few simple tweaks that you can make to your current fueling and hydration regime.
As a Board Certified Sport RD, if it takes you more than a few weeks to put together a solid fueling and hydration plan or you are constantly struggling to get through workouts due to improper fueling/hydrating, reach out to a dietitian who specializes in sport nutrition, to help.
-For newer swimmers who are building endurance and stamina in the water and find that form falls apart as the workout continues over 20 minutes, consider adding 50-100 calories of a hydration based sport drink to your bottle. While you are burning way more calories than you are consuming, keep in mind that the purpose of sport nutrition is to help delay fatigue. If you train with poor form, you will keep swimming with poor form. A sport drink during the workout may also help your appetite post workout as many athletes finished a swim extremely hungry and tend to overeat after the workout is complete (or notice extreme carbohydrate cravings later in the day).
-If you are a believer that you shouldn't have a water bottle on deck during a swim practice because you can't drink during a triathlon, this is not smart training. Why do you train? You train so that you can be as fit, fast, strong and resilient as possible on race day. In training, you are doing anything and everything possible so that come race day, you are in the best shape possible with a healthy body.
Remember, you are also not a competitive swimmer - you are a triathlete. This means that you are likely not swimming more than 2-4 times per week so every swim workout counts. Plus, you are bringing fatigue to your workouts from a previous run or bike session. The better and more consistently you can train, the better you will perform on race day. It's likely that you do a dozen or more things in training that you don't/won't do on race day (and vice versa) so you have permission from me to have a bottle on deck for all swim workouts.
-If you tend to feel nauseous when you eat before a swim, you'll benefit from having a sport drink during the swim (if swimming on an empty stomach) to ensure that you are well hydrated throughout the workout but also using those calories to help postpone fatigue (~50-120 calories in a bottle will work just fine for a 60-90 minute workout).
-Many triathletes complain of cramps in the legs when they swim. From my experience, this is less related to sodium/dehydration but more related to muscle tightness (especially when a swim follows a run or a hard bike workout). If you tend to suffer from cramps in your legs when swimming, use neoprene shorts or a buoy to take the stress off your lower body. Additionally, avoid using fins when you run/bike before a swim (or when you feel a cramp coming on). Lastly, be sure to start your swim workout with mobility work on dry land to loosen up the ankles, calves, hips and hamstrings (ex. dynamic stretching, light foam rolling). Although having a hydration beverage when you swim is recommended, tight calves, hamstrings and ankles while kicking are often the source of cramping when swimming.