by Heba Hosny in Health + Nutrition

Hydration – Are you down a Quart?

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Do you know that if you lost 2% of your body weight while running as a result of dehydration, it could impair your performance by 10 to 20%?

This clearly reveals the unquestionable importance of proper hydration for runners of all levels. In fact, hydrating well can literally make you minutes faster on a short 6-miles run. Needless to say, the benefits of proper hydration far exceed improving your performance. It is also essential for your overall health and wellness. That’s why; we will dedicate this article to address this important topic. Enjoy!

How can you hydrate properly?

Seasoned runners are well aware of the importance of hydration. Yet many of them can be seen cramping up, and dropping out of marathons at the Olympic Games because they don’t know how to hydrate properly. Quite often though it is we, the recreational runners, that unintentionally hamper our potential for the same reason.

Studies have shown that if you run for up to 6 miles (60 minutes roughly), water alone is sufficient for your hydration needs. It is certainly worth your while to carry a fanny pack with a bottle of water if your running distance was at least 3 miles (20+ minutes). Some runners only drink when they feel thirsty, thinking that they wouldn’t need liquids otherwise. That’s a very common mistake!

Your own thirst is not a reliable indication of your hydration needs during a run, particularly after the first few miles. You need to consume liquids on pre-set intervals regardless of whether you feel thirsty or not. For me, I discovered, after trying different options, that drinking at least one cup (500 ml) of water every thirty minutes seems to help me maintain the right hydration levels. Having said that, please don’t take my experience for granted especially that I am not a sports doctor. Instead, find out what works best for you to stick to it.

Studies have suggested that marathon runners should be drinking 100 to 600 ml of fluids every thirty minutes. Such broad range proves what I mentioned earlier about our unique hydration needs.

Water is not enough…

Once you decide to break the 6-miles run barrier, water will be no longer adequate to fully meet your hydration needs. You will also need to incorporate electrolytes into your liquid intake. This is because drinking excessive amounts of water without adding electrolytes to the mix may lead to hyponatremia, which can be fatal in extreme cases. Gatorade is a well-known fluid that contains electrolytes. Potassium and sodium are two other ingredients that you need to take into account.

Sports drinks are excellent source of electrolytes. In hot weather, you can carry electrolyte tablets as a water supplement. These tablets are available in most running stores. Still, you need to try different electrolyte replacement tablets in order to decide the right one for you. Also, it is a clever idea to experiment with electrolyte tablets while training for races before using them during the actual race.

To ensure you can always find fluids, you may choose a running location that offers access to water. If you are running in a populated area, make sure to carry enough money to buy sports drinks at convenience stores. You will only need to carry your own fluids if you are running in unpopulated areas or trail running.
For your convenience, Camelbak® is a brand of backpacks designed with a hose that allow you to sip the liquid contained in them without interrupting your run. Thanks to these backpacks, you can easily carry large amounts of liquids.

There are also different types of hydration bottles that can be fastened to your hand or carried on your belt pack. You can aim for the all-in-one designs that offer small pockets for carrying money, snacks, and electrolyte tablets.

Under-hydration versus over-hydration

Be careful not to “overdo” your liquid intake as it may result in over-hydration. In other words, you need to balance your fluids intake to ensure that you wouldn’t risk facing either possibility. But how can you tell if you are under-hydrated or over-hydrated?

Here is a good tip:

If you lost too much water-based weight in a hot weather run, it means that you are under-hydrated.

But if the opposite happened and you actually gained weight after running in hot weather, it’s a sign that you are over-hydrated. Trial and error is your best bet in order to figure your unique hydration needs. For me, drinking at least one cup of liquid at the available stations in marathons and half-marathons works like charm.

To sum up, the key takeaway from this article is to be aware of the importance of hydration, not only for your running performance but also for your long-term health. Once you maintain the right hydration levels, you will perform at your optimal level. Good luck!

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