A Review of the Most Mother Truckin' Sensational Salt Pills Ever aka GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules
Beads of sweat began trickle down my forehead towards my nose and I get a little shaky at times during a long run. My breath also smells as if I've been French kissed by a couple of billy goats or licked their ears in return affection. My appearance is eerily similar to that of a crack or meth head looking for the next hit. Sadly, that description isn't too farfetched from the truth.
I do take stuff... when I run, I mean. Gallons of Gatorade with miles of Mountain Dew, bottles of B-12 shots, GU gels and most importantly, electrolytes. Electrolytes (salt), along with carbs (sugar) and fluids during aerobic exercise lasting greater than one hour can improve athletic performance and decrease the risk of dehydration or hyponatremia (low sodium concentration) according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends about 500 – 700mg of sodium for every liter of fluid be consumed along with 30 – 60mg of carbohydrates per hour during 'sustained aerobic activity'.
As expected, a variety of commercial products exist to help obtain this recommended balance of salt, sugar and water during an endurance run. However, GU products have been my trusted resources getting me through races and training, both marathon-length and ultra crazy long. However, I’ve still struggled with electrolyte tablets. They’ve generally bothered my stomach so I only relied on them on the hottest of days when I reached that “I’ve gotta try something or I'm going to die feeling too fat and old to run and will never get to know how a person runs ultra distances and becomes so skinny that their clothing sizes start actually going in the negative numbers". In that moment of survival thinking, my legs are usually drunk dead weights and my stomach cramps are so excruciatingly severe, I'm positive I must be in labor. Never mind that I had my tubes tied a few years ago. The pain has convinced me that I'm doomed to become one of those stories you read about in the National Enquirer.
You know the ones. "Forty-year-old woman gives birth to thirteen babies in fold up chair at aid station during 50 mile race. Swears she wasn't pregnant." They'd naturally have a picture of me with messy pigtails, a Mountain Dew hanging from my mouth and a gaggle of babies playing on the floor of the van we all live in down by the trail.
That image is darn near close to the truth. I'm usually belly-bloated and retaining sodium at the starting line of an ultra race just like the good old, redneck East Texas girl I am. What that means is I loves me some salt. My parents were putting salted watermelon slices in my bottle and dipping my pacifier in margarita salt before I could even form words. Salt was and is its own food group back home and all good southerners know you have to get your four servings a day or your growth will be stunted.
This half marathon was my only DNF (see me in the center with race bib extended outward from belly). I ate a gel at the starting line before this pic was taken. 3 miles later, someone asked me when I was due. I promptly ran back to the start and drove to the pharmacy to pee on a stick. False alarm as I was just bloated from GU retention. Not that it would be a bad thing to be pregnant running a half marathon in Florida August heat. After all, Pregnancy is a breeze. If you consider hurricane force winds to be a breeze.
As you can see, I've been a swollen belly, salt shaking, and salt-lick loving chick for a long, long time.
Way back when I was just a little salt addict and I'd get to spend the night with my grandparents, I'd wake up to the sweet smell of home-made salt-back bacon. I'd rub the sleep from my eyes and follow the trail of smoke to find my grandparents sitting around the table with the second most important staple of the southern diet piled high on a plate in the middle.
It has always been the center of my attention. What we put it with, in it or around it is of little consequence.
Unfortunately, my forty-year-old body is beginning to show the signs of my salty life. Hence my most recent run in with nature's most tasty ionic compound. As a lifelong salt-aholic who struggles with bouts of extreme hunger, I've only recently discovered if I lick the salt off all the crackers in my house before I leave for a long run, I'm stuffed. Psychosomatically, this helps combat low blood sugar moments and temptation to stuff face at well-stocked aid stations during an ultra. And I guess it keeps me skinny too.
I usually weigh only four pounds. If I eat something huge, like a whole packet of GU gel, I still only weigh four pounds but I have a noticeable pooch…sort of like one of those snakes that can swallow a whole pig. You can actually follow the lump as it moves through my digestive system.
Even though I sound like I came from East Texas, I look like I've been rescued from Ethiopia.
So inevitably I carry a salt pooch pocket with me on every long run. I've learned to be okay with it in a camel-hump-holding-hydration-in-the-desert sense, it's a good thing to have the reserves during a long hot race. Or a famine.
And even though no actual science (peer reviewed) behind Na supplementation exists to my knowledge, anecdotally it makes sense to further supplement the reserves before running too long, too hard and in too hot temps. Commonly runners talk about the nutrition challenges with longer distances, and heat. At the ultra distances salt supplementation is like God. You either believe it or not and usually no evidence to the contrary is going to change your mind. GU, Chomps, and sports drinks are not enough in most situations. When the body sweats during endurance activities it is necessary to replenish sodium, magnesium, chloride and Vitamin D and B6. If these things aren't replaced, the body will commence to cramping. Pop a couple of salt tabs, slow down and the cramps magically dissipate. However, no one knows exactly how many tabs to take. It's all individual trial and error. A good self-test is to maintain a race pace level of exertion, pop the salt pills and see what happens. Another way to identify how many E-pills to pop is to monitor sweat. For example, if you sweat and don't think there is salt coming out then take a lick of your sweaty arm and taste the billy goat ear goodness for yourself.
Really, there is no definite way to determine the amount of salt an individual loses while sweating, but there are easy ways to determine your sweat rate. However, usually by the time you start cramping, it's generally too late. For those of us who cramp without it, salt isn't a fix. It's a preventative.
So I come to the conclusion that the main electrolyte runners need is salt. But doesn't Rite Aid sell salt pills pretty cheap? That's true but if you want more extra vitamins and performance helping add-ins with your salt, you'll buy some fancy electrolyte tablets. I've tried them all and can vouch that Endurolytes suck. They have very little sodium. For example, one capsule of Endurolytes has 40 mg of sodium. One capsule of Saltstick has 215 mg. Succeed! S caps have 341 mg.
The end result is that I'd need to consume a small handful of Endurolytes for every one capsule of other brands. While I could get away with one Succeed! capsule per hour the sodium content makes me look like I've been hanging out all night with horses at a salt lick stand. I'd have to choke down seven or eight Endurolytes capsules to get the equivalent amount of salt. Gagging down a capsule every ten minutes is about as inviting as hopping on a surgical table for fun and non-profit. And because I am a weak woman who is game to subject herself for most any medical test for fun and profit, I am guilty of every-ten-minute pill-popping in the past to the point of nearly spitting out my spleen in near terror salt-swelling overload.
But not anymore. GU came to the rescue this season with their new Roctane capsules. How are they different?
GU added vitamin D and Ginger to these salted goodies to help ease stomach distress that runners like myself tend to get after say, 30 or more miles. The new Roctane electrolyte capsules contain not only sodium, but magnesium, vitamin D and B6 and ginger root. The ginger is supposed to help soothe the stomach while B6 helps minimize nausea and de-bloats great white whales.
My disaster kit drop bag now includes a flashlight, bottled water, batteries and an industrial sized bottle of this stuff.
In all fairness, some so-called experts do tell women in my situation to stay away from problem foods such as chocolate, salt and caffeine which supposedly exacerbate the bloat symptoms. I would sooner stay away from oxygen however.
The truth is, when I'm running 30 or more miles at a clip I'd sell my rings just for a Butterfinger bar rolled in salt with a Big Gulp high sodium Mountain Dew to wash it down. Try to tell me that eating these things will only make me worse, and it's highly likely I will cover you in pop tart frosting, roll you in salt and wash you down with a salted caramel coffee.
The high quality formula in Roctane electrolytes gives my body the necessary junk it thrives off of during high mileage runs plus nutrients to keep charging without cramping or craving more crap. $19.99 for 125 capsules is a great value for these little gems and they're perfect for the longest most grueling training and racing. These Roctane Electrolytes have proven themselves mandatory when the body is covered in sopping wet sweat and the tired mind can no longer remember what supplements or food to take to combat deliriousness. I know this from experience and the truth is, I shouldn't even be writing this right now. That's because I just got back from a hot August 15-miler pushing my toddler in the stroller after forgetting my Roctane electrolytes. It's pretty much a sure bet that each and every decision I make when I'm in this condition is probably not quite up to par. Even though I still have a little bit of energy left from the Mountain Dew and while it makes perfect sense to me to download that new stun gun iPhone app, I have to remind myself that I may think differently in about twenty four hours. Or another dose of Roctane.
Like I mentioned, Roctane Electrolyte Capsules help to fill in the gaps with sweat loss that is unique to each runner. If you have had muscle cramping at the end of long distance events, Roctane Electrolyte Capsules may be the answer. Also, if you've ever felt queasy or have puked on your shoes during a race, Roctane rules because the Ginger Root helps decrease nausea.
As a plus, these pills can be popped as a recovery aid after a hard, sweaty workout. Having forgotten my dosage during the 15 mile stroller run this morning and as I sit here typing after ingesting two Roctane caps, I notice no cramps, bloating or cravings involving salt, chocolate and/or the souls of Victoria Secret models.
Strike through My Time of the Month.
The formula will definitely keep you hydrated (with water or other fluids) and most importantly, conscious and alert to be on your game during the whole race. Without these little white pills, I lose my ability to think like a semi-sane individual after a long run. I admit it.
And while I am allowed to make note of my poor decision making skills, it would mean a tragic fate for the one that decides to remind me of this when I announce to my family over dinner that I've decided to enroll in part time trucker school and legally change my name to Big Belly Blanche. The smartest thing they can do is to tell me they've always thought I would look good behind the wheel of a big rig and buy me one of those beaded cab-driver seat thingies as a "Go-Mom" gift.
Needless to mention numerous times over, I am excited about this new formula. I have used salt pills/electrolyte pills before, but they just don't do what GU Roctane electrolytes are doing. The added ingredients in these beauties really help with the issues that plague endurance athletes during training and events. Check out the whole Roctane line at www. GUenergy.com.
I'd better stop writing now. I've got to get to Wal-Mart to see if they still make CB radios. Or maybe I should just take another one of these pills?