Drinking water throughout the day is the best way to replenish fluid losses. Drinking before, during, and after training is just as important as drinking during the rest of the day.
Maintaining hydration as a runner is important for health and performance. Water regulates the body temperature, removes waste, helps brings energy to our cells, and cushions our joints. Adequate hydration can improve recovery, minimize injury and cramping, and maximise performance.
When we run, we generate 20 times more heat than when we are at rest. Our bodies cool down by sweating. However, sweating also leads to loss of water and electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. In fact, losing more than two to three percent of our body weight through can lead to dehydration. When we are dehydrated, we may be tired, get headaches, cramp, and have an increased heart rate. And performance can suffer.
Here are some tips to stay hydrated:
1. Measure your sweat rate
Take your weight before and after a run lasting an hour or more. Replace each 0.5kg of body weight lost with 2 to 3 caps of water. Do this along with eating foods containing carbohydrates and electrolytes, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The carbohydrates will be used to refuel your muscles and the electrolytes for your body’s daily functions.
Many factors regulate your sweat rate. These include air temperature, run intensity, body size, gender, duration of the run, and fitness level. For instance, well-trained runners sweat more than less fit runners, because their bodies are more efficient at cooling themselves.
2. Drink regularly
Drinking water throughout the day is the best way to replenish fluid losses, as opposed to drinking all at one time.
- Sip from a water bottle during the day.
- Eat fruit. Fruit is a great source of water, as well as electrolytes and fiber!
- Thirst is not the best indicator for hydration status. Instead, make sure your urine is clear to light yellow. If it is dark, drink up.
- Rehydrate before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can be dehydrating and lead to inadequate storage of carbohydrates in your muscles, leading to poor performance and increased risk for injury.
3. Drink water before, during, and after a run
Drinking before, during, and after training is just as important as drinking during the rest of the day.
- Aim for 2 cups of water at about two hours before you run. Pair this with a snack or meal.
- About 15 minutes before a run, drink another cap of water.
- During a run longer than 1 hour, drink water at regular intervals. This varies according to your sweat rate. Those who sweat more profusely may need 2 caps every 15 minutes. You’ll also want to consume some carbohydrates and electrolytes along with drinking water. Examples include sports gels and dried fruit.
- After a run, aim for at least 2 caps of water with food. Or, if you know your sweat rate, replenish with 2 to 3 caps per half a kg lost.
The Bottom Line
Hydration during running is important for performance and health. Drink water regularly during the day and practice hydrating while on long runs. And don’t forget your need for carbohydrates and electrolytes to optimise your hydration and nutrition.All runners are different, so meeting with a registered dietitian can be beneficial to understanding your individual needs.