Why Adequate Hydration Is Critical

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

The world sweating champion, Adrian Burford, muses on hydration during endurance races – of which there are three on the local motorsport scene in the coming months.

Working with several teams in preparation for the 24 Hours of iLamuna (a play on the 24 hours of LeMons, in turn a play on the 24 Hours of Le Mans) prompted this blog, because one thing is going to matter hugely in the race: lubrication.

No, this isn’t an unashamed plug for Liqui Moly, a Stigworx partner brand and one that I advocate for a range of oils, fluids and vehicle care products (not to mention bicycle maintenance). Rather, it is about lubricating the human machine, and with each of the four pilots theoretically getting equal seat time, that’ll be six hours of race driving each.

Expect lap times in the 2min30 to 3-minute range with top speeds in the region of 140/160 km/h and while those numbers aren’t exactly mind-numbing, keeping it in the zone hour in and hour out without a mis-shift or mishap will require concentration of the highest order.

Night driving adds stress to the human-machine. While there theoretically won’t be huge speed discrepancies when cars must cost a maximum of R50 000 (excluding safety equipment), there are going to be split-second decisions required – like whether to dive into a corner or to back off and let the faster car approaching from behind go past…

Fatigue and stress is a very real issue and we see it clearly during the Pro Drive courses run at the AMG Academy at Zwartkops Raceway. We’re talking about - usually – five or six sessions of six to eight laps each and we see the effects of trying too hard or getting over-excited.

With the VBOX Video we can track heart rate and we’ve learnt to spot the warning signs.

We’ve also seen a correlation between calm and controlled driving – with little fluctuation in heart rate – and lap times. The best laps are invariably achieved when the driver keeps his cool.

Each session means maybe 15 minutes at the wheel, including in and out laps.

Proper racing is way tougher and it comes as no surprise to learn an F1 driver might lose two kilos in a race. This is mostly just sweat and they’ll gain it back, but what’s important is what else gets lost. This includes – critically - potassium, magnesium and sodium, and a host of other minerals. These must be replenished.

Ironically, drinking unadulterated water can speed up the dehydration process by flushing the minerals out of their system. Many runners have learnt this to their detriment. A relatively small change in hydration can cause cognitive issues – in other words, you’ll start to make bad decisions.

Things will get complicated when competing for 24 hours. Drivers will need to be extremely careful about what they’re taking in – too much sugar and you’ll start to experience a range of side effects, most of them affecting digestion. It could also affect sleep and when you’re not driving, you should be aiming for some sleep credits so you start your next stint fully alert.

An alternative to sugary sports drinks is something like Rehydrate, or if you’re posh, Drip Drop. These are proper Oral Replacement Solutions, designed to save the lives of sick people, including infants.

Drip Drop has become my go-to remedy (I’m a trail/mountain runner and I sweat VERY heavily). In one recent instance, I lost almost six kilograms in less than 12 hours of high-intensity mountain running – despite taking in around five litres of fluid. It is extremely unlikely that any car racers will experience this level of loss, though a protracted stint in a car that could be 50-plus degrees inside could cause issues.

According to the packaging, Drip Drop has half the sugar and triple the electrolytes of an energy drink so it’s more suited to an activity that may not involve huge energy expenditure but will cause plenty of sweating. Alternatively, conditions such as diarrhoea or vomiting cause massive and sudden dehydration, especially in babies and the elderly.

The 24-hours of iLamuna is meant to be a fun event but the stresses, strains and dangers of motor racing will still apply and for maximum performance and safety, Drip Drop or similar is essential. A welcome bonus is that it is also (anecdotally) held in high regard as a hangover cure.

So, whether you’re visiting the podium or drowning your sorrows, it’ll be appreciated equally the morning after.

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