Originally published July 2016, edited and reposted February 2017
While we tend to focus on hydration products specifically in the summer months, it’s important to keep an eye on your hydration all year round, especially if you’re training for a long distance race or doing intense workouts on a regular basis.
Before we talk about some of our favorite hydration products, let’s just get a primer on running, sweating, and the incredible human body.
When you work out, your heart rate rises, causing a bump in your body temperature. That temperature increase causes your brain to send neurological signals to your sweat glands, telling them to get to work.
Your body produces sweat. The process of sweat evaporating off the skin removes heat from the skin, which in turn helps cool the rest of the body (remember, your skin is the body’s largest organ!)
WHAT’S IN SWEAT, ANYWAY?
Sweat is made of 99% water and trace amounts of other minerals – the largest concentration of these is SODIUM (salt), followed by potassium, calcium, and some other minerals.
Keep sodium in mind – it is a very important ELECTROLYTE. Electrolytes are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, maintain cell wall stability, and to function in general. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and just generally do a whole lot of important things inside the body.
The more your internal body temperature increases, the more you sweat. Your body needs to pull that fluid from somewhere – and some of it comes from the fluids surrounding your cells, which negatively effects cell function.
The increase in core body temperature comes more quickly and becomes more extreme on a very hot or humid day. Additionally, humidity stifles the sweat evaporation process, throwing a wrench into the wheels of your body’s central AC.
So the hotter and more humid it is outside, the more crucial it is to be well hydrated. Think of your body as a huge tank full of water. Ideally, you’d start each run with this tank as full as it can possibly be (i.e. ‘well-hydrated’) and replenish the tank as it empties (as you sweat).
So now that we have a basic understanding of why we sweat and why it’s important, let’s talk about two of our favorite hydration products!
Nuun was created as an alternative to the high-sugar sports drinks. This company, founded in 2004, has found a way to get you effective replacement of fluid and electrolytes without loading you up on sugar. To do this, nuun uses a plant-based sweetener (monk fruit and a touch of stevia leaf extract), giving you a subtle fruit flavor that is not overwhelmingly sweet.
Each nuun tab contains 4 key electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Drop a tab into your water bottle and wait for it to dissolve, then you’re ready to get your hydration on!
While the hydration benefits are great, the best thing about this product has to be the flavors. We have nuun in flavors like watermelon, tropical fruit, lemon-lime, and strawberry lemonade (my personal favorite), just to name a few. Nuun comes in a neat little tube that you can just toss in your bag or pocket.
Nuun ($6.99 for a tube of 10 tabs) is available in all Marathon Sports locations.
Another brand that eschews the usual sports hydration products in favor of something a little more real. Founder Allen Lim was working as a sport scientist and professional cycling coach a few years ago and began making his own performance nutrition products…from ‘skratch’:
I also started diluting their sports drinks to lower the sugar concentration while adding back extra salt and electrolytes to replace what was actually being lost in their sweat. Eventually, I started making a “secret drink mix” in my kitchen using a recipe with less sugar, more sodium, and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors, with a simple and clean taste created by using real fruit.
Instead of making an “orange” drink, I made a drink with real oranges. Instead of making sweet syrupy bars, I made savory cakes with sushi rice. And it worked. The athletes stopped complaining about feeling sick, bloated, and nasty from the synthetic gut rot that normally plagued them. Most importantly, with better hydration and better fuel they started feeling and performing better.
Sounds so simple, right? Skratch Hydration Mix comes in powder form that you just mix into your water bottle. The fruit flavors come from real freeze-dried fruit, so you don’t get that fake sweet taste you find in other drink powders.
Skratch replaces those key electrolytes and gives you a bit of real cane sugar to help replace glycogen lost during long or intense periods of exercise.
We carry Skratch Labs Hydration Mix in single servings ($1.95) as well as a bag of 20 servings ($19.50). Skratch comes in some pretty unique flavors – apples & cinnamon, matcha & lemons, and hyper mango, to name a few.
Skratch Labs product is available in all Marathon Sports locations.
While these two products have the same end goal – optimal performance hydration – they go about it in different ways.
Nuun’s big plus is that each tab is only 10 calories and has only 1g of sugar. This makes it a more attractive option for all-day sipping compared to Skratch, which has cane sugar as its first ingredient. Calorie-conscious runners will probably opt for nuun.
Skratch is a great option for intense exercise, as the sugars help replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores, allowing you to work out hard for longer. Think of Skratch as a much better for you version of Gatorade – a great choice if you’re training for a long distance race or (for whatever reason) working out for hours at a time.
Both options are significantly better for you than your run-of-the-mill sports drink because they are free from artificial flavors and colors, and both companies are committed to putting a clean product out there. Both nuun and Skratch have a mission and vision we can really get behind – keeping it real, keeping it clean, and promoting a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Don’t forget to keep sipping this summer so you get the most out of every run. And stop by and try out some nuun or Skratch – or both!