Dehydration prevention during the DUSI Canoe Marathon

As temperatures soar and many avid paddlers take to the water in preparation for the Dusi Canoe Marathon in February, dehydration may become a concern.  Maintenance of proper fluid balance is essential, both during training and competition.

Of particular concern for the Dusi Paddlers is that the race takes place in February, which could mean temperatures in the mid to high thirties (0C) and high relative humidities, especially in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Bridgitte Hartley – South African Olympic Sprint Canoeist

Factors affecting fluid balance

  • Nature and duration of exercise
  • Climatic conditions
  • Nutritional status of the athlete
  • Sex of the athlete
  • Physiological and biochemical characteristics of the athlete

Mix of athletes at Dusi

  • Elite and international competitors
  • Recreational athletes
  • Therefor it is important to develop individual recommendations for fluid intakes
  • Hydration strategies should be practised during training sessions and preparation races such as the 50-Miler and Drak Challenge.

 Fluid recommendations

    • Before the race
      • Begin the race euhydrated
        EUHYDRATION = Normal state of body water content; absence of absolute or relative hydration or dehydration.
    • During the race
      • Consume sufficient fluids during the race
      • Using a drink which includes carbohydrates and electrolytes for longer sessions (eg. >90 min moderate intensity or >60 min high intensity)
      • Water alone should be sufficient for shorter duration training
    • After the race
      • Hydration during recovery should include replacing any body mass loss as well as a further 50% of body mass loss to account for urine and other fluid losses
      • Inclusion of sodium in the recovery drink will enhance the retention of fluid by reducing the urine loss
      • Should the fluids not contain sodium, they should be consumed with low fat, salt rich foods eg. Bovril / biltong / added salt

Week prior to the Dusi multistage race

  • Ensure sufficient fluid intake even when exercise is tapered down
  • Include fluids with the pre-event meal (eg. 500ml Sports drink with 6-8% carbohydrate solution)
  • Include fluids with the pre-event snack (eg. 250ml Sports drink)

During the Dusi

  • To use Trippers or bladders for pre-mixed sports drink will save seconds along the route as well as spare and top up “on-person” stores
  • The drink should be palatable, cool and preferred by the athlete to encourage voluntary intake
  • The sports drink should contain more than one source of carbohydrate which ensures better absorption eg. PeptoSport®
  • The sports drink should encourage fluid absorption, therefore shouldn’t be too concentrated in carbohydrate eg. PeptoSport® if mixed according to instructions
  • Every opportunity should be used for body cooling eg. cold water splashing, especially during long portages to avoid hyperthermia

Recovery after the Dusi

  • Rehydration should start immediately after the paddler has exited the river!
  • Thirst is an insensitive marker of dehydration and should not be used as the only sign for drinking
  • Alcohol is not recommended but if taken should be taken after fluid and carbohydrate recovery and not in place of

What about Caffeine?

  • Previously caffeine containing drinks have been discouraged
  • However this should be evaluated against preference and habitual caffeine use which will influence the diuretic effect
  • If the athlete really enjoys caffeine drinks it can add to ensure voluntary intake and may be a useful alternative

What about the “Dusi Guts”?

  • Prepare for sufficient fluid and food sources as to not use foreign water sources in and around the river
  • Correct preparation, in terms of general health and wellbeing, should ensure an optimal immune system
  • If diarrhoea occurs during the race, correct rehydration is essential to prevent excessive dehydration.

Read more about PeptoSport® and PeptoPro® here.