Traditionally, in endurance sports, there are limited means of hydration on the race course. Whether it is a marathon, triathlon, road cycle race, etc. the aid stations usually have water, some sugar water, and/or a hydration drink. As a professional triathlete, I can supply my bottles on the bike with a drink of my choice but on the run, you are at the mercy of the race and the sponsorships it has with drink products. What you train with might not be offered on the course which could affect your outcome. One of the old cliches is to not try anything new on race day, and this includes nutrition and hydration – these are words to live by in racing.
To Red Bull or Not to Red Bull in Endurance Racing?
The reason why I am going over this is to take you through my thought process for using Red Bull in endurance racing. Yes, I do work with them, but this is because I have used their energy drink for the past few years in the endless pursuit to improve race times. First and foremost, they are an energy drink company which has many advantages in athletics. Endurance athletes for years have used caffeine, sucrose, and glucose, and B-group vitamins in some form or another to help push the body along when times got tough in training and racing; Red Bull has this and more. When the body is depleted on mile twenty-two of a marathon, there is nothing better than a swig of these essential ingredients to give the body a boost. The same holds true for strength and speed training which is also a part of my triathlon/endurance training. I sought out Red Bull because I made the conscience decision to use it in my training and racing to help my performance – no more sugar water for me!
As stated before, do not try anything new on race day. Train with your gear, nutrition, and hydration to see how it reacts with the body before putting it to the test in the extreme environments of racing. I have seen too many instances where this has backfired to the detriment of the athlete’s race; yes, there are success stories but why take that chance? I researched Red Bull extensively and began to use it during and after training sessions. It became a part of my repertoire just like fueling before a session, recovery after exercise, or nutrition during a race. These are all the items that I would use on race day, and I worked Red Bull into the equation. Since I had done the research, I was not surprised that Red Bull had positive effects on my training and overall energy output. The “Why Even Bother” (another topic for another time!) workouts became more tolerable, and the full cylinder sessions were more energy packed.
The next step was using Red Bull on the race course where the difference of finishing on the podium or being out of the money has become minuscule in the sport of triathlon; every advantage counts whether it be a new chainring on the bike or an energy drink. This holds true in most endurance sports where competition is fierce, and the bar has been raised for males, females, professionals, and amateurs.
Why drink sugar water when you can have something that is good for you in extreme race circumstances? Red Bull has now found its way to aid stations on the run of some Ironman races which is news to my ears and should be to every athlete wanting to improve their performance. In Ironman distance races, athletes also have the ability to prepare special needs bags at mile thirteen of the run, so I now stash two Red Bull cans for use when times are usually tough.
I have seen firsthand the advantages of Red Bull energy drink through my research, being a part of the Red Bull Project Endurance and active use in training followed by racing.
Practice makes perfect, so test using Red Bull over the course of your training and take note of the results compared to the alternatives.
The Type A endurance athlete, is always searching for ways to improve their performance and the simplest changes can make a huge difference. I do not profess to know everything in endurance sports, but I have been doing them for 30+ years so you can learn something from experience! Be smart in your endurance journey and learn from others; do not reinvent the wheel like I did so much through my career.
Take what you learn from Play2Health and reduce the learning curve towards reaching your athletic goals!