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Hydration Testing – @TheSweatExperts

So after my epic Mara-fail at Brighton Marathon, where I cramped so badly I had strangers trying to straighten me out, I went back to the drawing board. I couldn’t understand why I had suddenly become prone to cramp. Not just any cramp either, race-ending soul-destroying cramp.

I was both recommended Precision Hydration @thesweatexperts and tweeted by them simultaneously for a sweat test and to meet them to see what might be going wrong. By good fate, Jonny Tye was just down the road from where I live. After some twittering and emailing I was booked in.

The testing was a couple of weeks ago. – I didn’t want to write a blog without doing another race and following the Precision Hydration recommendations. So…I raced a long distance duathlon in ridiculous heat just over a week ago and not even a hint of cramp! So I’m pretty impressed so far…!

When you think about sweat testing you automatically assume it’s an hour of torture, surely the only way is to sweat your bollocks/tits* (*delete as appropriate) off with some vigorous exercising and see what and how much comes out. Well….actually, no. It’s all rather pleasant and nice!

I met Jonny at Surrey Sports Park where he had use of the lab and after an introduction to the company, what he does and his background, we discussed the Mara-fail! He was unpacking hit kit as we were speaking; small machine, some tubes and some wires, the products…and then a whacking great big syringe! LUCKILY Precision Hydration send you a little video before you arrive so you can see exactly what is going to happen…the syringe just pushed your sweat from the tube where it had gathered in to the machine – it never touches you!

Video here: http://vimeo.com/35069745

The first stage is a little wipe to make sure the area on your forearm is clean, then two little tabs are strapped on, these are what the current will pass through. Now, I’m never keen on the idea of forcing electricity through your body, I refuse to do Tough Mudder because of the electric shocks and I’d never use one of those electric ab belt thingies either! This however, is in another league, you barely even feel the current as it’s so tiny.

The current makes your sweat glands in that particular spot jump in to action. After a few minutes the current is turned off and a little tab with a spiral of tubing is put on the same spot. This has some blue dye in it, so as your sweat collects you can see it by the blue colouring. It’s quite interesting to watch! The rate at which your little spiral turns blue will depend on how sweaty you are! It can take from 5 to 20 minutes.

As soon as there’s enough sweat gathered, it’s removed from your arm and the little tube is un-coiled. This is where the syringe in used….it pushes the sweat from the tube in to the machine.

The machine has a little think and Hey-Presto! Your sweat figures have been calculated!

The numbers for your sweat sodium concentration are pretty set – it’s how your body works and isn’t likely to vary by too much at all. So it doesn’t matter that you haven’t annihilated yourself on the bike for an hour, the composition of your sweat is quite reliable. Obviously there is a small caveat that if you haven’t acclimatised to your surroundings then it may vary slightly to begin with.

Once you have your stats you get a full written report (the above image is a little snippet from mine) and a hydration plan for your racing, training and general day-to-day living. Tips on when you should be drinking and how much. The report gets emailed to you and it really helpful to keep referring back to.

Unlike your standard hydration tables, these come in different sodium strengths, allowing you to personalise your intake.

Something else that I was impressed with, and hadn’t expected was the ‘cleanliness’ of the tablets. They fizz in water just like any other, the difference however is that there isn’t that scummy top layer like there is with all of the other hydration tablets (High5 on the left and PH on the right):

It also tastes really light and really ‘clean’ – again, something I hadn’t expected. It feels fresh and not at all artificial. Furthermore, you don’t get that sediment clogging up the bottom of your glass like the other brands do. Precision Hydration, if you’re reading this, you should definitely market that part, it’s great!

They also do salt tablets, which were also recommended for Ironman races. I expressed my concerns about these, having heard a horror story of a friend who supposedly overdosed on salt tablets and had a miserable time. Jonny explained their use, the sodium levels and how to use them properly. I’ll be trialling them next time I go on a really long ride or a really hot run to see how I get on, but he explained it all in such friendly detail that I’m not so worried!

I totally recommend arranging to meet the guys and have your sweat tested, hydration is such an important part of training and racing, which, unfortunately I had to learn in the hardest manner. I also really want to sign the praises of the hydration tablets, not only are they different levels of sodium, but there’s no minging scum in your drink and they taste really clean and fresh.

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