How many of you can honestly say that you drink enough water throughout the day? I’ll be the first to admit that making sure I drink enough water is a challenge for me. However, I’m working on it and can report that when I am properly hydrated my running is far better than on the days when I’ve skimped on my fluids. Today I’m talking about why hydration is important for runners and giving some tips to help you stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated during your run starts long before you hit the road. To be properly hydrated for a run you need to be drinking consistently during the day, not just a sip here and there. Being hydrated before, during, and after a run will help keep your body cool during a run, lubricate your muscles so that they don’t cramp, and help you metabolize the calories you take in before and/or during that run. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration will cause you to run slower than you would if you were hydrated. On top of running slower you may experience physical symptoms such as side stitches, muscle cramping, nausea, headaches, and fatigue. We’ve all been there at one time or another and it’s not fun!
Tip #1: Don’t wait until you are thirsty to have a drink
This seems to be a big mistake for both runners and non-runners alike. Sometimes it’s hard to drink a glass of water when you aren’t thirsty and it can be particularly hard in cooler temperatures. When we wait until we are thirsty before we grab that water bottle, more than likely we are already dehydrated. Keeping water near you and drinking consistently throughout the day is the best way to avoid finding yourself in a situation where you are thirsty. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much water you should be drinking during the day is to take your weight and divide it by 2. The number you are left with is the number of ounces of fluid you need during the day. Another test to check your hydration is the pee test. I know, it’s weird, but it’s a great way to check how hydrated you are. If your urine is clear to pale yellow then you are hydrated, anything darker, start drinking!
Tip #2: Water vs. Sports Drinks
While water is best for staying hydrated throughout the day, sports drinks do have their time and place. Having a sports drink every time you head out the door for a run isn’t necessary. Unless you are doing a hard track workout, a long run, or racing, water is all you should need. The benefits of having a sports drink during those hard workouts and races is that they will help replace some of the sodium that you have lost due to sweating. They also provide extra energy in the form of carbs which are the first thing your body uses while running.
Tip #3: How much water should I drink during and after my run?
This one is a little tricky. Everyone’s body responds differently to the amount and type of fluid you take in during your run. Here are some general guidelines to follow, but adjust them as needed depending on how your body reacts. If you are running for an hour or less, 3-6 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes is recommended. Water is all you will need for a run this short unless you are doing a hard workout. For runs averaging over an hour and up to 4 hours, stick to 3-6 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes and incorporate a sports drink into the mix as well. If you are like me and can’t handle drinking sports drinks very well, an energy gel will also work to replenish carbs and lost electrolytes. If you choose to take an energy gel be sure to chase it with water to prevent the overload of sugar from sitting in your gut.
Drinking water after your run is just as important as it is before and during. Replacing the fluids you lost will help prevent cramping, fatigue, and will help your muscles recover faster. Drink enough water so that you have to use the restroom approximately an hour after your run.
Hopefully you have found these tips useful and can start incorporating them into your daily habits. It can be hard to get in the habit of drinking enough throughout the day as well as during your run. Once you get in the habit though you are sure to find yourself with more energy, less cramping, and hopefully faster running times as well!