The concept of hydration being key to higher performance isn’t a new one. However, people, myself included, often can’t seem to keep up with the hydration game. Add the increased stress on our bodies from high altitude activity and we mountain dwellers can fall behind the hydration eight ball before we even get started.
Just living our day-to-day life doing things like breathing and going to the bathroom constitutes a loss of 1-2 liters of water per day. When we start moving, our hearts, blood streams and kidneys start to go into overdrive and the water loss increases at an alarming rate. When we have less water in our blood stream (due to a drop in plasma levels), our blood becomes thicker and our hearts have to work harder to pump all that blood around. Just like an engine overheating, our internal temperature rises from the extra work and we either continue on to heat stroke or we just plain bonk. Obviously there is a lot more to the science of what happens in the body during exercise than that (don’t even get me started on carbohydrate utilization), but you get the general idea.
So, just drink a ton of water, right? That’s what I always thought until I learned that plain water actually has a poor absorption rate due to a lack of drivers such as glucose, sodium and potassium. That means it takes longer to replace water lost with plain H2O as opposed to drinking something with those absorption drivers included. Enter sport drinks.
I’ve always been a general hater of performance drinks. I have found them to generally be too sweet, syrupy, hard on my stomach and generally disgusting. But since I came upon some extended research about the benefits of absorption drivers, I decided to give them another go. When it comes to hauling my caboose up mountains, I’ll take all the help I can get.
Gnarly Sports Nutrition products came across my path recently and I’ve been super impressed with their offerings. Specifically designed for mountain athletes, Gnarly products contain strictly all-natural ingredients and are non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free and NSF Content Certified (meaning they’ve gone through independent testing for label claims and contaminants).
For long hikes, I’ve been drinking their Fuel2O product that mixes directly into water. It comes in limeade, tropical and cherry cola flavors the latter of which has a little boost of caffeine added. Each serving delivers 100 calories of carbohydrates and 250 mg of sodium, and is geared as a catch-all for fueling, replenishment and recovery. Personally, I found the mixes a little on the sweet side, so I just dilute them a bit more than the directions recommend.
An added element of the Fuel2O line is the addition of HMB, or Hydroxymethylbutyrate, a natural metabolite produced when the body breaks down leucine. Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is one of the critical building blocks of protein. This just means that HMB helps to minimize the breakdown of muscles during activity and kickstarts muscle repair.
Gnarly also has an assortment of other nutrition supplements like whey and vegan proteins, electrolyte powder, performance greens and collagen. These are all great options for additions to your pre-workout smoothie. If you’re just starting out, I recommend getting the sample box as an affordable way to try out the entire line. There’s also a Fuel2O sampler pack available.
Gnarly products are available online at gonarly.com. The Fuel2O sampler pack is $9.50 and the protein sample box is $15.
Meg Simon is an Aspen-based freelance writer, graphic designer and founder of Simon Finch Creative. She can be reached at [email protected].