Lady triathletes have benefited from the scientific and nutritional advances made in sports and athletics like most modern athletes. Age old sports problems like low energy, cramps and injuries have not been cured, but the answers to why they happen and how to try and prevent them are finally being answered.
There are times when all women triathletes experience what is known as a “bonk” or bonking. Despite the funny name or double entendres that one can think of, it is not much fun when you experience bonking, it involves you completely running out of energy or hitting the proverbial “brick wall”.
Triathletes bonk because their body uses up its glycogen reserves from physical exertion and this results in a feeling of no energy, continuing your physical activity becomes like running through quicksand.
How your body burns glycogen and stored fat calories depends on the amount you have exerted during a race or training session. If you are doing a hard triathlon workout for an hour on an empty stomach, then you will more than likely end up experiencing a “bonk”. If on the other hand you are doing a more moderate one-hour training session without eating anything, your body will use stored fat and glycogen and you will still have enough reserves to get you through.
Professional athletes learn to train their bodies to utilize stored fat primarily, instead of only their glycogen reserves. Using a monitor, they observe their heart rate while training in various heart rate zones, they can then determine how their bodies react in different conditions and intensities and learn the amount of energy they need to achieve their best performance and how to burn their glycogen and fat at different ratios.
The average woman triathlete may not be a professional, but they still need to prevent an energy deficit during a triathlon race or training. First of all, using a proper healthy triathlon designed nutrition plan is paramount, and also making sure there is always a good supply of energy gels and formulated sports drinks available to compensate the deficit in glycogen reserves will make sure that you get to the end of your race or training session.
Even non-athletes constantly hear advice from doctors about drinking enough water to prevent dehydration and other health problems.
The average person consumes about 1.5 gallons or more of water per day in normal bodily activities and respiration. If you are training with the intensity needed to take part in a triathlon, then your water usage level will increase, and it is recommended that you drink at least 4oz of water every 15 minutes.
Most triathletes and other athletes should drink at least one water bottle for every hour of exercise they do, and even more when they are racing.
Never wait until you are already thirsty before you drink water. Thirst is our body’s built in alarm for dehydration, and good hydration must be practised even if you are not thirsty.
Hydrating your body for triathlon workouts and races should start days before the planned activity, and if you are training multiple times a day proper hydration is even more important. Dehydration causes your blood to thicken and forces your heart to work harder to pump the blood around your body, you will have a higher heart rate and your exercise performance will decrease. Dehydration can also result in muscle cramps that can greatly affect your athletic performance.
Apart from bonks and dehydration, triathletes may also experience Hyponatremia, an electrolyte disturbance where the plasma has a lower concentration of sodium than normal. During training or racing in a hot climate, the body sweats excessively and loses a great amount of sodium which results in muscle cramps, nausea, headaches, vomiting, disorientation and slurred speech.
Ironman athletes are prone to Hyponatremia because of the extreme nature of the event. Many pro triathlete women fight sodium loss by taking salt tablets which do not just replace sodium in the body but also help the body in the absorption of water.
The good thing for the average triathlete is that much of this type of research is available to anyone, and the remedies and preventative measures are not expensive treatments but simple things that are basically “tricks of the trade”.
Most of these simple remedies have been well field tested to help you push yourself harder and improve your training and race times without any adverse affects to your health.
As long as your doctor has cleared you to do triathlon training beforehand and you tell him what diet and supplements you are taking, you should be able to start testing some of them and slowly become a better woman triathlete.