Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dehydration and electrolyte drinks

For a while now I've been feeling super dehydrated when I wake up in the mornings, like dry mouth, creased skin, and sometimes even a slight headache. Before you say anything, no, it's not a hangover. At first, I used to think it was a phantom hangover, reminding me that I should've gone out drinking the night before instead of staying in.

But after coming back from a run about a month ago and then devouring every salty thing in our fridge (most notably the rest of our pickles and half a jar of sauerkraut), I figured it must be some sort of electrolyte imbalance and plain water wasn't doing enough to get me back to feeling normal.

Of course, I did nothing about it for another month.

I'm not a fan of Gatorade or Powerade, and when I do drink them I have to dilute them by half. The flavors of Vitamin Water got old and started to taste nasty to me, probably because I associate them with actually being hungover.

So I ventured into the endurance sports mixes to replace the electrolytes lost during exercise or just generally living (I sweat a lot, see the reasons behind me not biking the 1.63 miles to work/school).

I first tried Hammer's HEED Sports Energy Drink, Lemon-Lime Flavor, and it was disgusting. That is not to say this mix is not recommended to all. The flavors are a matter of personal preference and it just wasn't sitting well with me. I couldn't even finish the water bottle and had to dump it out.

Since I really like Clif Shot Bloks as a source of nutrition on bike rides (it's like eating gummy candy, but actually good for you and quite necessary!), I figured their electrolyte mixes had a similar type of flavor and so I decided to give them a shot (pun totally intended).

I've now had their Clif Shot Endurance Drink, Lemonade Flavor, for two days and I find it tolerable, especially if I add it to ice cold water. It's kind of weird-tasting in room temperature water...the kind I drink normally.

The only problem I have with it is that it's very calorific. See the nutrition label below:

For a 16-oz. glass, I add about 1.5 scoops (a little less than recommended), which comes out 120 calories! And 20 g of sugar! Even Gatorade has less calories and only 4 g more of sugar:

The whole point of avoiding Gatorade/Powerade was to cut down on the calories. I need the electrolytes on a daily basis and not just when I'm exercising. And even when I exercise, I don't want to offset my hard work with a necessary drink that I don't get that much pleasure out of. It's good, it's just not 1/4 cup of ice cream good. (Yes, I have the number of calories in 1/4 cup of my favorite ice cream memorized. It comes in handy when comparing the worth of eating whatever I'm craving at the moment.)

Unfortunately, my timing was completely off in deciding to buy these things and right after receiving the Clif Shot Endurance Drink in the mail, I stumbled upon a recommendation by Outside Magazine, my favorite magazine thus far, of Nuun Electrolyte Enhanced Drink Tabs, which advertise the same benefits of electrolyte mixes and none of the sugar or calories. Well, no sugar, and limited calories (~6 per tablet).

I don't usually take any recommendations from gear reviews in magazines since I believe they're all sponsored and give a limited blurb on why this particular product was chosen over another (I need full-page comparisons, can't you tell?).

But I was intrigued by this one. I've always liked dropping tablets in my drinks as a source of flavor or nutrition so I figured I should try it. The price was a bit cheaper than the Clif drink mix (Clif: 45 scoops per bottle = 30 16-oz servings for $20-ish, and Nuun: 48 tablets = 48 16-oz servings for $24).

The nutrition was even better:

More sodium than Clif (360 mg v. 300 mg), more potassium (100 mg v. 75 mg), and magnesium (25 mg v. ~9 mg). That's not even considering the difference in calories (6 v. 120) and sugar (0 g v. 15 g).

That, and the bottles are pretty, and not messy, and there are a lot more flavors to choose from, 10 in fact. I got the 4-pack mix which includes the original flavors of lemon+lime, tri-berry, citrus fruit, and orange (I've heard orange is pretty bad as is the tri-berry...after I purchased them, of course).

And if I like the fizziness and the general flavors of the brand then I might go with the new flavor 4-pack mix, which would include grape, fruit punch, strawberry lemonade, and tropical. We shall see how I like them.

Regardless, I will have a lot of whichever electrolyte drink I like least to finish off so I think I'm going to go with the Clif one for rides where I still need to replenish carbs and calories, and drop a tablet of Nuun into the water bottle I take to class and work.

As for my electrolyte experience thus far? I woke up this morning with a dry mouth again. I have a feeling one 16-oz. serving in the morning is not going to be enough to get me through the day. But I don't really want to consume more than 120 calories of non-sports drinks so I'm just going to wait until the Nuun tablets come in and see what happens. Hopefully this will rid me of each morning's bout of dehydration.

8 days without booze
210.5 lbs 

P.S. I don't eat much sodium in my daily diet which is why I'm ok with packing this much into my system as a supplement.

P.P.S. I also drink a lot of water throughout the day, at least 72 ounces. It takes a lot to fuel this large machine. And even with that, sometimes my pee doesn't come out all that clear (TMI, I know). But when it is clear (or I have to pee as soon as I take a drink of water, like right now), and I'm still feeling dehydrated, I know it's an electrolyte problem.

P.P.P.S. I still can't believe I gained over 5 pounds just from two consecutive weekends of heavy drinking. Yikes!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rafting and PBRing

I've been doing ok with the no alcohol thing, in that for the most part I'm staying away from beer. I did cheat a bit this past weekend, but since I wasn't hungover the next day, I'm not beating myself up too much about it. (I know, I know, a hangover should not be the deterrent but instead the calories associated with drinking that much booze, but it's a much more immediate effect and quite effective at keeping me away from the bottle.)

To give a little perspective, we went camping and rafting this past weekend. And by "we", I mean a super large group of friends who love to drink good, but oftentimes not-so-good, beer. When we arrived at the campsite Friday night, the first thing we were offered was beer. I declined, and continued to do so the rest of the evening.

Saturday came and we set out on an incredibly frigid and at times miserable but awesomely fun amazing rafting trip on the Arkansas River.

Our group, before putting the boat in the water. You can tell because we're smiling and happy. Just kidding. It was a lot of fun!

It was a full day trip so we left at 8 am, rafted for a bajillion hours, had lunch as it started to rain, bundled up in fleeces over our wetsuits and under our splash guards, and set out for another couple hours of rafting as the sun came out, during which time I decided it was a great idea to jump out of a perfectly safe and well-inflated raft into the rapids below.

Trying to warm up at lunch in the gawdy fleeces the guides had in their dry bags.

A large amount of chaos later, I found myself pinned between a very pointy log and our raft of what used to be 9 but was now 7 people. Apparently our guide forgot to mention the fact that we're only supposed to be in the water for about 20 seconds and then climb back into the raft and not go down the next set of rapids. Details.

The guy who had jumped in with me, got into the back of the raft, and then scrambled to the front of the raft, was the one who eventually pulled me out of the water, while everyone else in the raft, including my brother, paddled away from the log instead of trying to pull me out, which I would think would be a more effective way of rectifying the situation. By that point, there was enough separation that I kind of used the log and rock as a ladder to climb in, so I wasn't nearly as bad off as the last member of our raft who had floated down the river and had luckily been picked up by the other boat we were rafting with. Scary stuff. But incredibly fun.

The dude who grabbed me from the water. Yup, he's got skillz.

The guy who grabbed me out of the water later told me that he waited a second or two to pull me out because he felt my chest and life jacket could take the hit better than my legs. I kind of see his point, but it still knocked the wind out of me and probably would've broken my ribs had I not been wearing a life vest. Without the life vest I probably would've been dead, but whatever.

The calmest rapids of the morning (not the ones we jumped into, although these would've been a better idea).
Unfortunately I wasn't able to capture the amazing views so instead you get shrubbery.

Anywhos, after all those adventures everyone wanted a beer, naturally. I resisted because, 1) I had told myself that I wouldn't drink on this trip, and 2) I had an organic chemistry exam to study for (yes, while camping). So while everyone else played cards and had a merry good time, I took my stack of very thick books to the next picnic table and got some work in. Or at least pretended to. I was doing so well being a responsible adult.

But a game of King's Cup broke my will. When I returned from being a nerd, my peeps were playing the best game ever, and also a game you can't play without a drink in your hand. And that's how my typical night of drinking excessive amounts of PBR began. And merriment, and fun, and great pictures. So it was kind of worth it. Who am I kidding? It was totally worth it, that is, until I stepped on the scale this morning. Eww.

The best rule of Kings Cup:
If you swear, you have to keep your chin on the table...

...even during Thumb War.

All this to explain why I had a drink this weekend. Yikes. I really need to work on my will-power.

3 days without booze (I had to start the count over. Sadness.)
212.0 lbs

Friday, June 3, 2011

I feel like I'm in AA

It's Friday, and I'm still recovering from Memorial Day weekend. And by recovering, I mean my voice still sounds like I'm a 50-year-old chain smoking lady. Gross. And now I'm headed to the mountains for a weekend of Chili and Brewfest. Oy. I'm worried my body won't survive.

After Memorial Day, during which I and most of my rugby teammates went on a four day bender, I've decided that I can't do this anymore. I'm too old for this stuff and it's totally not worth it. Well, Memorial Day weekend is totally worth it, but I'm glad it only happens once a year because otherwise I don't think I'd still be alive (for the record, "it" is the rugby team working the beer tent at the weekend festival in town, which results in most of us consuming ridiculous amounts of free good beer, hence the four day bender).

So...I'm giving up alcohol for the summer. Well, until mid-August at least. My tolerance is too high, I gained 5 pounds this weekend, and I hate being hungover. Actually, my hangovers aren't that bad if I just stick to beer. Those pitchers of margaritas and long island iced teas with straws are not the way to go, I've found. They're not made for anyone over 25.

And I'm not kidding about the weight-gain. I'm up to 211.5 today, so I'm pretty sure the alcohol water weight has come down and that's really me. And besides that, I saw a picture of myself from the weekend and it's disgusting. See my gut below:

Side note:
Yes, those are a whole bunch of cupcakes. And Bloody Marys. Another Memorial Day Weekend rugby tradition is baking and icing a bunch of cupcakes to hand out to the runners of the 10k race held on Memorial Day morning. With 50,000 running people, we need a lot of cupcakes. And by a lot, I mean they baked 842 cupcakes on Sunday afternoon/evening. Insane, right? And then drank PBR at 8 am and handed them out to people. I had to skip the handing out this weekend because I need a couple extra hours of sleep to feel relatively normal on Monday so I could continue drinking. Another reason I need to stop with the booze. It's getting in the way of life. Ugh.

Anywhos, this is going to be a kind of mid-summer Lenten season, with some pre-approved breaks, such as this weekend's Brewfest and Res Fest in August. But that will be limited to three beers a night and has to have at least two weeks' notice of beer-drinking approval from me, so I don't just decide on the spot to have a beer and make this an exception.

At this point, I think alcohol is the number #1 thing holding me back from losing weight, nutrition-wise, and it's also the easiest thing to fix.

And so begins my countdown (or countup, whichever):
4 days without booze
(Today will eventually be reneged since there will be brewfesting going on in the afternoon, but for now, I'm kind of proud of that number.)

Wow, that sounds super alcoholic. Maybe I should change it to "4 days making good decisions". Hmm. Nah, I need the not-so-public shame and the realistic picture of my lifestyle. So instead, I'm going to bold it. And add my weight. There.

4 days without booze
211.5 lbs