by Amanda Kidd in Health + Nutrition, image by Steven Depolo

More fluid is always better for runners: is this really true?

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Hydration recommendations have been running into controversies ever since the marathons have come into picture as a sport. There was a time when the coaches would forbid the runners from drinking any kind of fluid during or before the race. The idea was to avert cramps or feeling of nausea in the course of the event.

Fortunately, this thought took a back seat as more and more runners failed to keep up with the lost fluid in their body. Next was the idea of keeping the body hydrated much before it actually requires to. Hence, the runners started carrying bottles and stopped at every aid station to provide their body with enough fluid rather than losing themselves to heat stroke. However, even this extreme care failed to achieve its goal. The runners were still at the receiving end and this time many of them suffered from Hyponatremia.


Hyponatremia is a condition where the body over hydrates itself and believe it or not it is more dangerous, and in some cases fatal, than dehydration. Since the fluid intake is more than one has lost during the event, the body is low on sodium level. The symptoms are similar to dehydration, and cause vomiting, perplexity or muscle weakness. Adding more liquids to hyponatremic runners can only worsen the situation. It will dilute the blood salt level further and result in coma and also death. The situation demands more concern as runners are aspiring to participate not only in marathons but also in ultra marathon distances and are in cut-throat competition to perform better every time.

There are runners who are on the track for five to six hours nonstop. Gulping down glasses of water without feeling the need of it and merely as a precaution to save oneself from dehydration, is indeed worrying. This rigid fluid replacing strategy does take its toll.

Meanwhile, what everybody needs to bear in mind is that the need for water intake varies from person to person and there are several factors that need to be looked into before taking up extra hydration. There are lots of factors associated with losing fluid in a body. For example, as compared to men, women sweat lesser, similarly climate, terrain, altitudes, age and many more factors contribute to hydration needs and a negligence on these accounts may lead to Hyponatremia.

What should be done?

The problem is indeed grave because if fluid intake is less it results in dehydration and if it is more, runners suffer from hyponatremia. So eventually what decides the amount of fluid to be taken which is neither less nor more? Experts having researched on both the aspects, concluded to `respond to your thirst’ connection. Though it hardly proves to be a right barometer, yet this ultimately is seen to be the most suitable gauge.

A runner has to feel the urge of drinking water before
guzzling a cup or two

Feeling thirsty is a physiological need of a human being. And responding to it solves the problem to a great extent. A runner has to feel the urge of drinking water before guzzling a cup or two. If he doesn’t crave for it, he should better avoid it. Having a dry mouth, doesn’t necessarily indicate that you are thirsty. It might be caused because of heavy breathing. Thirst is one instinct which is found in all the creatures on earth. Hence, scientifically, responding to one’s thirst is the best solution to the problem as to how much fluid is required. At the same time it also breaks the myth that a runner requires to take more and more fluid. As far as the requirement of sodium is concerned, the experts believe that a normal amount of sodium taken in the meal is sufficient to maintain the same.


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