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No more Gatorade Endurance at NA Ironman Events?


I recently heard/read some rumors that at the upcoming Ironman Texas event, Gatorade Endurance will be replaced with Mortal hydration at the bike and run aid stations. The Gatorade Endurance Formula has been on all Ironman and 70.3 U.S. race courses since 2015. The exclusive multi-year partnership took effect on January 1, 2015.

I have never been a big fan of Gatorade Endurance as I feel there are better, well-formulated products on the market. I've only used Gatorade once on race day. It was 2017 Ironman Chattanooga and two of my three bottles bounced out of the cages as I rode of the railroad tracks. Although I didn't enjoy deviating from my nutrition plan, I knew I needed a replacement for the fluids, carbohydrates and sodium that I lost in my bottles. I was thankful I had three more bottles of my own nutrition at Special Needs. Thankfully it all worked out ok as I finished as the overall female amateur of the day.
I am a big fan of being self-sufficient at races and the majority of our coached athletes are also self-reliant in that the only use the aid stations for water and bring their own sport drinks with them on the bike and run. After 19 Ironman events (and 2 XTRI), I can't think of a time when I used on-course nutrition (sport nutrition) aside from the example I just gave at IM Chattanooga, using water for sipping and cooling, sipping coke on the run and if I remember, I do think I used gatorade at my first Ironman in 2006. I've worked with hundreds of athletes over the past decade and many of the athletes who express GI issues on race day also exclusively rely on Gatorade as their primary sport drink. Although it may work for some, I do feel strongly that there are better products available that support current sport nutrition guidelines.

However, with the average Ironman participant numbers ranging from 1,000-3,000 athletes and twelve North American Ironman distance events spread out throughout the year, a well-established company that has a lot of money to sponsor large scale events (requiring a lot of sport nutrition bottles/powder) is needed. Gatorade makes sense. 

Plus, Gatorade Endurance is fairly inexpensive and easy to purchase. You can find a bottle of Gatorade (not necessarily the gatorade endurance formula which has twice the amount of sodium and three times the amount of potassium as Gatorade Thirst Quencher) at almost any gas station and grocery store. I feel that if a product is available at a global series event, it should be easily accessed for most - if not all - participants so that every athlete has the opportunity to practice with it repeatedly in training. 

Rumor is that Gatorade Endurance (nutrition profile and ingredients above) will be replaced by Mortal Hydration. If you haven't heard of Mortal Hydration, you are not alone. It is a very new product that is only available at some Sprouts grocery stores and available at The Feed. 

As you can see from the two "hydration" products that Mortal Hydration offers, it is not a sport drink. It is simply a sodium-rich beverage similar to Pedialyte or LMNT. Could you add fructose or maltodextrin to the drink and make it into a well-formulated drink? Sure (although it still contains Stevia) but there are many other products on the market that are already doing that for you.

I would never recommend an athlete to consume a 460-900mg sodium beverage (each hour) that only contains 8-10g carbohydrates and to use that as their "sport drink" on the bike or for the run.  Furthermore, this drink is sweetened with Stevia which may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain in people who are sensitive to sugar alcohols. Gatorade Endurance is much safer and practical option compared to Mortal hydration.  

If the rumors are true and Mortal Hydration will be the primary "hydration" beverage at the aid stations at Ironman Texas, I advise the following: 

  • Do not rely on Mortal Hydration on the bike. It is NOT a substitute for Gatorade Endurance as you will not be receiving the carbohydrates that you need to support the Ironman bike and run. 
  • Do not concentrate your bottles of your planned sport nutrition to make a 3 or 5 hour bottle (in other words, putting 600-1000 calories worth of powder in one bottle) because you will not be using Mortal Hydration at the aid stations. 
  • Do use your practiced, well-formulated sport drink and plan for 1 bottle of sport drink per hour. If you aren't sure if your product is well-formulated or if you are using sport nutrition properly, you can check out my blog for articles on the topic (I have many of them) or reach out to a sport dietitian for a personalized consult. 
  • Use special needs (~56 miles in an Ironman distance triathlon) to grab three more bottles of your well-formulated sport drink. 
  • Do not worry about the extra weight of carrying 3 bottles of sport drink on your bike. A well-fueled and hydrated body that isn't struggling with GI issues will outperform the athlete who has "less weight" on his/her/their bike. 
  • You can bring extra powder (or an empty bottle of only powder - I do this in ultra distance gravel events when I don't want to carry extra weight but want to make my aid station stops quick and efficient) and use aid stations to refill your bottles. 
  • If you plan on using Mortal Hydration on the run, you will also need to consume adequate carbohydrates to meet your individual hourly needs. I highly recommend practicing during your long runs to understand how your body tolerates the mixture of mortal hydration and your planned nutrition (ex. powder, chews, gels) at race type intensities in similar weather conditions. You will want to wear a hydration belt/pack or set up aid stations similar to race day to mimic race day scenarios/situations. 
  • If you do not plan on using Mortal Hydration on race day, use a hydration belt when you run. You can carry your own nutrition and drink on your own schedule. It's very easy (and quick) to refill your flasks/bottle at an aid station with water and powder. 
If you are new to this blog or you aren't familiar with my sport nutrition philosophy, I am a big proponent of sport drinks. A sport drink provides a practical and easy way to obtain fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates, in the right formulation to optimize digestion and absorption, to help meet your individual needs to delay central and muscular fatigue while also minimizing the risk of GI issues and dehydration. Because you will always need to consume fluid (water) when you train and race in warm/hot weather, a sport drink makes the most sense as the most practical, convenient and easy-to-replicate source to meet your fluid, sodium and carbohydrate needs. Far too many athletes overcomplicate sport nutrition by consuming multiple products at random intervals in training and fail to replicate these strategies on race day - or fail because of GI issues. I believe that endurance athletes over obsess about consuming enough sodium, under-hydrate (don't drink enough fluids) while run training (and expect the gut to tolerate fluids at aid stations on race day) and do not know how to select sport nutrition products properly for specific workouts (either underfueling or overfueling). When applying the topic of sport nutrition, it's important to understand that just because you are consuming carbohydrates, sodium and water, this doesn't mean that your muscles are receiving what you are consuming. If a product is not consumed properly (or formulated properly when mixed), it'll simply hang around in the gut - causing bloating, a sloshy stomach, heart burn, belching, vomiting, gas and/or diarrhea. fluid ingestion. This can further lead to dehydration and glycogen depletion.
Water is absorbed in the small intestines and by the time it enters the large intestines, roughly 80% absorption has occurred. The rate of gastric emptying and intestinal absorption are dependent on the volume and formulation of the beverage. The greater the concentration, the greater the osmolality. This is why you should never concentrate your sport drink – like putting 400-600 calories (2 or 3 hours worth of calories) in one bottle that only has 28 ounces of fluid. When you drink water, there’s a drive for the water to dilute the blood (water moves toward blood) but if you drink a more concentrated beverage than blood, like a hypertonic sport drink or soda or juice, water will move from inside the bloodstream and into the gut – which is dehydrating. The inclusion of electrolytes and glucose in a beverage promotes retention of fluids. When you add a little sugar with sodium (as in a sport drink), you can pull a great amount of water across the small intestines, optimizing water absorption. To help with fluid and electrolyte loss, it's not just about the carbs. You also need to ingest water and electrolytes from a sport drink to keep plasma volume at normal levels.

There's also an added benefit of a sport drink having multiple carbohydrates for better digestion and absorption. Exercise shifts blood flow away from the GI (Gastrointestional tract) towards the active muscles and lungs. Digestion is compromised during exercise. This is why it's important that your carb choices during exercise do not require a lot of digestion. The quicker and easier those carbs are emptied from the stomach, the quicker those carbs can be used by the active muscles. Also, the more digestion that is required, the greater risk for GI issues.
If you are simply consuming carbohydrates without the awareness of how much you are consuming, what types of carbs you are consuming and how often you are consuming them, there's a good chance that you are not optimizing absorption - which means a greater risk for bonking, early fatigue, dehydration and GI issues.

To increase the capacity to absorb carbohydrates, it's critical that your sport drink has the right formulation. Simply eating/drinking whatever you want, whenever you want, does not guarantee that what you are consuming is being digested and absorbed.