Hydrating properly is key to performing optimally and keeping your body functioning, not only while you’re running but throughout the day as well. Often when runners feel fatigued or tired during a long run they automatically think it’s a lack of fuel, but sometimes it can be a result of dehydration and/or imbalanced electrolytes. When you sweat your body loses both fluid and electrolytes. If you don’t begin a workout properly hydrated, dehydration can occur through the act of sweating.
Dehydration has many negative impacts on athletic performance, and you may have experienced some extreme consequences like cramps and fatigue. Even if you don’t feel a difference, even 2% dehydration can result in a decrease in performance. With that said, here are a few tips to help keep you hydrated!
Water isn’t Enough:
While water can help keep us hydrated on shorter runs and throughout the day, when we exercise and sweat we are also losing electrolytes. Electrolytes help our muscles contract, replenish mineral losses, regulate our body functions, and help make the most of the water you drink. Here are the electrolytes to look for in sports drinks: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Some sports drinks only have a couple of electrolytes (I’m looking at you Gatorade), so it’s important to check and make sure the hydration product you are using has a balanced electrolyte profile. Brands with balanced electrolyte profiles include: Nuun, Skratch Labs, and UCAN.
How Much to Drink:
Several factors play a role in how much water and electrolytes we need such as: fitness level, activity duration, sweat rate, body weight, and environmental factors. A good way to check if you are hydrated during the day is by the color of your urine, pale yellow urine indicates adequate hydration. If your urine is darker that’s a good sign you aren’t hydrated.
Fluid recommendations for exercise are also going to be individual, however, here are some general guidelines that provide a great place to start.
Pre-Exercise: Drink sufficiently between exercise sessions and throughout each day so that urine is pale yellow.
<1 hour session: 24-30oz of water
>1 hour session: 24-30oz of plain water or carbohydrate/electrolyte drink (electrolyte/sodium intake should be based on sweat losses if known). Don’t rely on thirst as an indicator to drink fluids; aim to avoid the sensation of thirst especially in hot conditions.
Post-Exercise: 20-24 oz of water or carbohydrate/electrolyte drink - depending on duration of training session - for each lb. of body weight lost during exercise.
If you are doing all of the above and are still feeling thirsty, make sure to check your medications and see if any of them are diuretics. Diuretics can cause you to have to use the bathroom more often and leave you feeling dehydrated. If you are taking a diuretic talk with your doctor about how to stay hydrated during your training.
Remember that hydration needs are going to change based on the duration of your bout of exercise, the weather that day, and many other factors. While having a set plan for hydrating can help you stay hydrated and perform optimally if your training circumstances change your hydration plan may need to be adjusted as well.
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