Hydration for Runners
Hydration may have become the #1 topic of discussion among runners in recent years. There are lots of articles and new stories about hydration, what happens when you're not hydrated, when you should hydrate, etc. It can get very confusing for every runner, not just beginners. Hopefully the following information will help you determine how much fluid YOUR body needs.
First of all, hydration is important because our bodies are about 65-70% water. Proper hydration is responsible for regulating our body temperature and blood pressure, keeping our blood volume correct, ridding our bodies of waste products, and much more. Often times, the way a person feels largely depends on their hydration level. When we feel fatigued, have headaches, or general nausea, it's often due to being dehydrated.
How do you hydrate?
- Drink when you're thirsty. All day and every day (we try to do this every single day!)
- General rule of thumb: drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day.
- By lunchtime your urine should be a pale yellow to clear color.
- You can boost hydration by eating foods that have a high water content like grapes and cucumbers. These foods don't replace drinking water, but can help.
Hydration and Workouts
- Drink 8 oz of water 30-60 minutes before your workout.
- Weigh yourself before and after your workout, especially if you think you'll be working out for longer than an hour; every pound you lose=16 oz (2 cups) of fluid lost. (So, if you lost a lot of weight, you probably need more fluids.)
- When exercising for an hour or more, consume 16- 32 oz every hour of exercise. Water is fine, if you are working out for 1 hour or less; any longer you should supplement with a sport drink. This is mainly because when you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are important for the overall performance of our muscles and nerve cells. If our electrolytes get diluted (when we drink too much fluid) or depleted (when we drink too little fluid), it will affect our muscle and neurological systems.
- After your workout, drink 16-20 ounces (2-3 cups) during your cool down.
- Be aware of climate changes. When it's especially hot and humid, you'll need more fluid. And even when it's cold, you still need to hydrate.
How do you know if you are Dehydrated?
- Your urine will be dark yellow.
- Dry sticky mouth.
Drinks That Are Strong Hydrators
- Water: Water is definitely the beverage of choice for correctly hydrating the body.
- Herbal Teas (Infusions): The leaves from plants such as mint, verbena, linden, balm, and so on give a pleasant aroma and flavor to the water in which they are steeped, which makes infusions a satisfying alternative to people who don't enjoy drinking plain water. The medicinal properties of the plants do not have a negative effect on the body's absorption of the water. Note: The benefit does not extend to sweetened infusions, or if the tea is made with plants that have diuretic properties, such as dandelion.
- Fruit and Vegetable Juices: The water in fruits and vegetables-their juice-is one of the liquids nature has provided for hydrating our bodies. Juice is water bound to a substance. Because juice can be high in sugar, albeit natural sugar, we should consider juice a secondary resource to be used in moderation. When you do, be sure to drink fresh 100% juice.
Drinks that Are Weak Hydrators
- Coffee, Tea and Soda: There is much debate over whether caffeinated beverages increase dehydration. Caffeine does have a mild diuretic effect, but it is not as significant as once thought. When consumed in moderation, coffee and tea are fine. As far as drinking caffeinated beverages before a workout: this fine as long as you do not have a reaction to caffeine. Many people have stomach distress as a result from caffeine before a workout or race. The problem with soda comes from the high sugar content of most sodas. The body has a hard time properly metabolizing refined sugar. To correct the reaction to this, the body has to surrender water from the blood and other bodily fluids. Because that makes a person thirsty, a vicious circle is created, as the thirst is being maintained by the very beverage that is drink with the intention of getting rid of it.
- Milk: Milk is a food, not a drink, and its digestion by adults is frequently incomplete.
- Alcohol: Alcohol itself has dehydrating properties, removing water from the tissues it contacts and drying them out and increasing the need for water. These beverages aren't off limits. As with everything, enjoying these beverages in moderation, and in addition to strong hydrators like water and 100% juice, you can keep your body performing at its best.