Many athletic supplements today do contain small amounts of caffeine. Small amounts such as 10 mg per serving are advantageous for improving digestion and absorption of your trail supplements. Larger amounts though, can aid in alertness, cognitive performance and short term memory. Although rarely fatal, taking in too much caffeine in a short period of time can lead to jitteriness, insomnia, irritability, and cardiac arrhythmias, especially combined with undiagnosed medical conditions and medications that may potentiate the effects of caffeine.
How much caffeine are we talking about?
A 6 oz. single cup of coffee may contain 100 mg of caffeine. Energy drinks may contain up to 300 mg of caffeine per serving but often contain additional ingredients that boost energy but also can present dangerous arrhythmias when coupled with intense exercise and undiagnosed medical conditions. Some of the other stimulants these drinks contain may be guarana, taurine, and L-carnitine. Additional caffeine supplements are available in capsule or tablet form, which if consumed in larger quantities can present bigger problems, i.e disturbed blood flow, altered consciousness, impaired vision. The biggest take away from this issue is that it may worsen an undiagnosed medical condition, and when coupled with prescription medications, may potentiate caffeine’s effects on the body during prolonged intense exercise.
Just keep in mind the old adage… if a little is good, a lot is not always better.
Water, Salt and Solid Nutrition
Several years ago I wrote about dehydration and over-hydration… a condition that sometimes plagues ultra-runners and not marathon distance runners, as your events last for 10 or 12 hours through several temperature fluctuations and microclimates. Drinking too much water can be as detrimental as not drinking enough. Even though you may be taking salt supplements, you may be diluting your circulating salt concentration in your blood. This can lead to impaired kidney function and nerve conduction. In most cases, eating snacks and solid foods at each aid station will provide enough sodium and adequate fuel for the body until the next opportunity for food and drink. Additional salt may drive your thirst to drink too much water.
Remember to eat some solid food along the way… A bolus of food and nutrition that releases slowly in your stomach and intestines will maintain digestive function for your entire race. If you do not provide something for your digestive tract to do, it will shunt blood flow to your legs, and make it difficult to digest solid food and process much needed liquids and electrolytes later in the race.
At what temperature can the body get hypothermia?
Medical studies have demonstrated that a temperatures as high as 60°F for a prolonged period of time, a person can develop hypothermia. This is 1/3 of the lethal triad. Loss of heat from your body’s core, cognitive skills diminish, and performance suffers. The body must maintain a sufficient core temperature to sustain life… this is why it is important to bring adequate clothing for an event that may have a large fluctuation in temperatures and conditions. Your running backpack with an extra shirt or a rain slicker is your lifeline…
it could mean finishing the race or taking a DNF and a ride back to the finish line. Never underestimate the effects of cold temperature on the body… exposure even at moderate temperatures (45°F to 60°F) can have serious effects on your health and performance.
Thanks for listening.