Hydration tips for runners
As a runner, it is necessary to stay hydrated before, during and even after your run. It is an essential key to boost your performance, energy and endurance level.
While running, heat is generated and obviously, we cool down by sweating- a perfect way our body prevents overheating. Sweating promotes the loss of electrolytes like sodium potassium and other minerals. And without replacing all of this we become dehydrated.
Dehydration has its own downside. It is associated with discomfort, poor performance and fatigue. A simple way to avoid dehydration is to always keep fluids around you by all means so it can easily be accessible.
Staying properly hydrated has to do with more than just drinking the usual 8 glasses of water per day. As a runner, you would surely need more than just a routine everyone has been accustomed to.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when our bodies fail to replace vital electrolytes lost through sweating. Dehydration begins to take place when your body is lacking enough salt and fluids to function optimally.
People are said to be dehydrated when 2% of body weight is lost through physical activity, diarrhea and vomiting.
Electrolytes are salt consumed from food and fluids that dissolve into positive or negative charges. Electrolytes control the flow of water in and out of body cells, regulate nerve impulses, support brain and muscle function, help build worn-out tissues and aid muscle contraction.
Replenishing of electrolyte is important to avoid dehydration- it is vital for bodily functions. This is because less electrolyte will cause muscle cramping and spasms which can stop your body from performing at peak levels.
Electrolytes are necessary to fuel your body for your run as much as engine oil is necessary to keep a car moving.
To avoid cramping and other problems that could affect your race, proper hydration and replenishment of electrolyte is of utmost importance.
Dehydration could affect recovery after a run or training session. It hinders speedy recovery of muscles which can definitely affect your performance- and you don’t want that.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration.
- Thirst which is an indicator is an overlooked sign of dehydration. When you are thirsty you are most likely dehydrated already.
- Dry mouth, eyes and skin
- Lack of tears
- Increase in heart rate
- Under-sweating which indicates heat exhaustion (mild heat-related illness)
- Over-sweating which indicate loss of electrolytes and expansion of energy
- A decrease in energy and running performance
- Muscle cramping
Runners are advised to obey their thirst. Rather than drinking large amounts of water, it is better to take sips frequently. Although you may not notice all these signs and symptoms if you even get dehydrated.
We all have different body systems and responses to dehydration. Examine your body during moments when you feel dehydrated to find out ways to replenish and hydrate properly.
Dehydration can lead to heatstroke, a severe heat-related illness that signals your body’s failure to regulate its temperature. Common symptoms of heat stroke include chills, dizziness, dark-colored urine while severe symptoms such as tingling of limbs, difficulty breathing and even death could occur if it progresses.
To avoid heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, the best thing to do is properly hydrate before, during and after running. Also, pay extreme attention to climatic changes (hot or humid) and drink accordingly. Use safety tips to adapt to hot temperatures to avoid heat-related illnesses such as
- Reducing the level of strenuous activity when the temperature is hot.
- Wearing lightweight, light-colored and loose clothing.
- Monitoring of athletes by other players medical staff and even coaches.
Hydration tips for runners to avoid dehydration.
- Plan Your Route: one of the reasons most runners fail to hydrate properly is by running through routes without easy accessibility to water. Carrying enough quantity of water can be quite discomforting since it could weigh a lot.
To avoid the discomfort of carrying extra weight while you run, plan a route that can make it easier for you to drink water- a clean water source where you can drink or refill your empty bottle.
Run through routes easily accessible to a clean water source so you don’t miss the opportunity of drinking water “during” your run, at least at an interval of 20 minutes.
- Fluids Should be Available: and at all times. Whether it’s water or a sports drink, fluids should be available and accessible. Below are different ways you could incorporate drinking even during running.
Handheld water bottles are light and great for running. They are portable and can easily be refilled at a water source or a loop run that brings you back to your starting point such as your car.
A handheld water bottle can be firmly gripped in your hand with its strap feature to enable you to relax while running. To ensure even distribution of weight, it’s best to carry handheld water bottles in each hand.
- Hydration belt stores more water than a handheld water bottle. Most hydration belts are designed with multiple drinking bottles giving you the option of drinking different fluids such as water and a sports drink all during your run.
- Running vests also called running hydration vest as the name implies are designed to look like an actual vest. Running vest allows you to store bottles to drink and refill. Most vest are uniquely designed to fit in a hydration reservoir.
So, while preparing for your run you get to not only pack clothes, keys, towels, food, sneakers, gels and phone, water is inclusive.
- Stay Hydrated Daily: hydrating every day is the simplest way to avoid signs and symptoms of dehydration. Asides from drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water per day, every day, consume food rich in water content.
Water-rich foods are filled with antioxidants, vitamins, water and minerals. By eating water-rich fruits and veggies every day, you hydrate properly and avoid dehydration even during your run.
These foods include watermelon, spinach cucumber, tomato, broccoli, oranges and cantaloupe. These fruits and foods are hydrating and nutrients dense. They can provide several health benefits and reduce the risk of chronic diseases
- Determine Your Sweat Rate: different runners sweat differently, either more or less. Factors such as run intensity, body size, fitness level, age, gender, the temperature of the weather and length of the run can regulate sweat.
Always measure your weight before your run and after your run. Each pound of weight loss should be replaced with 16 to 24 ounces of water. Listen to your body to understand the way you sweat. If you notice you over-sweat, it could be out of inadequate consumption of proper fluids.
However, if you notice that you under-sweat, you definitely need less water. Listening to your body will help you normalize your hydration routine even while preparing for a race day.
Understanding and determining your sweat rate will ensure you are hydrated properly and your performance level is at its peak.
- Do not Overhydrate: drinking too much water can dilute sodium and other electrolytes present in your body which can further lead to hyponatremia. Drinking too much can lead to hyponatremia which is a life-threatening condition.
Symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea, confusion, vomiting, breathing problems and drowsiness during the run.
- Drink Water Before a Meal: drinking water before your meal can help reduce the portion size of food. Overeating just before your race can lead to sluggishness and a decrease in energy hence, slowing you down.
Another reason to drink water before your meal as a runner is to help reduce hunger pangs and cravings that may occur during your run. Whether it is a long distance race or short distance race, staying hydrated before a meal is a useful tip.
- Make a Hydration Schedule: Most runners simply forget to hydrate and later suffer dehydration. Make a plan for when you hydrate and stick to its faithfully. Set a timer to remind you to drink. It’s possible to lose track and forget it is time to drink water. You don’t have to forget anymore and you continue hydrating while you run.
How much do i drink before during and after running?
“How much and when you drink” matters for proper hydration. While it depends on your distance and sweat rate, hydration is still necessary.
Before a Run:
Before you begin your running ritual, drink 16 to 20 ounces of water about two hours before you want to start off properly hydrated.
During a Run:
You need to drink fluids 15 to 20 minutes during your run. Drink 5 to 10 ounces of water. So, you have to keep fluids handy by either carrying it with you or ensuring it is at a water source or by running a loop that takes you back to your drop point.
Drinking little amounts wouldn’t be too hard on your stomach and would also help your body absorb it better. However so you don’t run out or get carried away by your run, set a timer to remind you.
After a Run:
Drinking after your run is essential to return your fluids level back to normal and also boost recovery. Weigh yourself right after your run and for every pound lost, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.
What to drink for a better run
- Sports Drink: sports drinks contain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride. While you run, vital electrolytes are lost through sweat. These electrolytes are important and beneficial for most bodily functions, especially as a runner.
These functions include the prevention of muscle cramps. You need an electrolyte sports drink to replenish and replace lost electrolytes. After 90 minutes of your run, you need to drink fluids containing electrolytes and consume carb. Fortunately, most sports drinks provide electrolytes and carbs.
- Chocolate Milk: this sweet, healthy and smooth drink contains enough protein and fast-digesting carbs. Proteins repairs worn-out muscles aids recovery and build muscles as well. It has been found to be better than most sports drinks as it contains vitamin D and calcium. Drinking chocolate milk after your run increases the time it takes to reach exhaustion and promotes performance level even after your running ritual. It also provides fluids and minerals needed for rehydration.
- Coconut Water: this healthy and natural drink contains 14 grams of sugar and 670 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte and helps with muscle contraction and relaxation as well as the maintenance of water balance. Coconut water can be drunk before or after your run.
- Cold Water: drinking cold water can help to cool your temperature down especially if you are sweating. Wondering how you can still consume a cold drink while you run? Fill a bottle but not to the brim, freeze it and top it off with water or other fluids before running.
If you are running a loop, bottles should be kept in a cooler along your route. A study found that athletes who drank cold water improved in their performance while running.
- Iced Green Tea: green tea is a powerhouse of catechin and antioxidants. You could drink it before and after your run. It’s catechin content reduces muscle damage, injuries and also speed up recovery.
This herbal tea also contains caffeine which is known to boost speed and endurance. Drinks that should be avoided when planning to run includes fruit juices, soda, sports drinks with a concentration of more than 8% and carbohydrate gels. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided before, after and during an exercise session as it will reduce fluid retention and increase urine output.
Common hydration mistakes to avoid as a runner.
- Properly hydrating only few hours before a run. As a runner, hydration should be done every time, whether running or not
- Lack of salt. Most runners think of salt as the bad guy. Although salt or sodium have a negative impact on health, it is an important electrolyte and needs to be replenished once lost. Try including a salty snack in your diet
- Do not ignore the warning signs of dehydration. It could be life-threatening if you don’t fix your dehydration symptoms. Even while on a run, stop running, sip plain water or a sports drink slowly
- Focus on other electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. Eat food sources of potassium such as bananas and beetroot and magnesium such as lentils and seeds.
- You don’t monitor your hydration levels. You can monitor your hydration levels so dehydration doesn’t hit you by observing your urine. If it is pale yellow, you are properly hydrated. However, if your urine is darker then you need to hydrate.
- Instead of gulping take a sip of fluid- so you don’t Overhydrate. Drinking too much water exist and can be life-threatening.
- Before grabbing a bottle of beer, calm down and rethink. After your run, the only thing to be shoving down your throat is a sports drink, plain water or food containing carbohydrates, protein or salt.
- Hydration is more than drinking water. Include electrolytes, minerals carbohydrates, etc. They can also fuel your workout and help avoid dehydration
- Do not forget to consume water-rich foods. They are as vital as drinking water. Fruit and veggies such as spinach, watermelon, broccoli and oranges are hydration friendly and contain lots of minerals.
As you can see, staying hydrated is important as a runner and should be a part of your daily routine. You need to combat dehydration by observing the tips given.
Dehydration could slow you down, inhibit your performance and make you feel terrible. Staying hydrated is a win-win because one of the ways to ensure you get the best out of your running is by doing the things your body needs to function optimally- which includes staying properly hydrated