You’re in the middle of a 5km run when the first signs of thirst start to show. You’re smacking your lips more frequently to maintain moisture. There is a water fountain 100m ahead. However, you decide to forego it because you are on pace to set a personal best for the distance. At the 3km mark, you come across another water fountain. Again you run past it. You say to yourself, “A short break will cost me precious time.” What it will cost you is your health. In extreme cases, maybe even your life.
5 Benefits Of Staying Hydrated For A Run
Any type of physical activity will induce sweating. As you exert effort, your body temperature goes up. Sweating is the body’s natural mechanism to cool itself down. The harder the effort the greater becomes the amount of sweat.
Running is one of the most physically-demanding exercises. If you run outdoors, your body temperature rises rapidly. When you sweat, you remove harmful toxins from your body. However, at the same time, you lose valuable minerals. Most of all, you lose water.
Dehydration is the state where your body loses more water than it receives. This creates an imbalance between the amounts of sugars and salt in your body and could affect the way your body functions. This is why you should always stay hydrated.
Proper hydration is important for any exercise but most especially for outdoor running.
Here are five benefits of staying hydrated for a run:
- Reduces Levels of Fatigue – Water assists cells in performing their enzymatic activities that promote good quality of sleep, efficient function of bodily systems, and energy production.
- Prevents Heatstroke –A fully hydrated body consists of 92% water. Thus, when you are well hydrated, blood circulates more efficiently through your veins and arteries.
Better blood circulation reduces the risk of acquiring high blood pressure and other cardiovascular ailments. This is why runners who are not hydrated properly are more susceptible to heatstroke.
- Manages Allergies – Dehydration produces histamines which are compounds that fight off allergens. Too much histamine causes congestion and makes breathing difficult. These are unwelcome conditions when running outdoors.
- Protects Joints And Cartilage – Every stride you take generates impact forces that cascade from your feet to your knees, lower back and hips. Your cartilage has padding which is made up of mostly water. Dehydration will make your joints feel stiff and more susceptible to damage from these impact forces.
- Prevents Cramping – As discussed earlier, running is an activity that induces a lot of sweat. You lose salt, minerals and water when you sweat and this can create an electrolyte imbalance that will lead to cramping. Staying hydrated constantly will reduce the risk of having muscle cramps.
As you have read from these benefits, hydration and running should go hand-in-hand.
5 Best Hydration Drinks For A Run
Now that you know how important staying hydrated is for a run, the next step is to find out the best fluids to take.
- Water – Your body is composed mostly of water and you lose most of it through sweat. Water is the best way to rehydrate.
- Electrolyte Drinks – Electrolyte or sports drinks contain fast-acting sugars usually in the form of glucose that can replenish lost muscle energy and aid in recovery. It also contains potassium which helps prevent cramping during a race.
- Coconut Water – Nature’s electrolyte contains 294mg of potassium which is twice that of your favourite sports drink. It also contains only 5gms of sugar compared to 25gms for a sports drink.
- Chocolate Milk – In addition to being a tasty treat, chocolate milk is rich in sodium and potassium. It is a great post-run drink because it also contains a good amount of protein which helps speed up recovery and rebuilds damaged muscle tissue.
- Tart Cherry Juice – Tart cherry juice contains anti-oxidants that can lower inflammation. It has also been studied to improve blood flow in runners. Drinking 2 cups of tart cherry juice before a run can help with your performance.
7 Best Tips On Staying Hydrated For A Run
In order to stay properly hydrated, you must draw up a plan on how and when you should take your fluids before, during, and after a run.
Here are 7 tips for staying hydrated:
- Wear a Runner’s Backpack – One bottle of water may not be enough for you during a long run. If it is a particularly grueling run, you might need to bring gel packs for quick energy.
Invest in a good, dependable and durable runner’s backpack. It should be able to carry four 10 ounce water bottles and rest comfortably on your hips so that it won’t impede your run.
- Drink Plenty of Water – Drink as much water as you can in the days leading to the race that your urine runs clear. You may find yourself going to the bathroom often throughout the day but clear urine is a sign you are well hydrated.
- Avoid Alcohol – Drinking alcohol may have reported health benefits. However, its negative effects show it is best reserved to celebrate a good race:
- Alcohol can lead to dehydration.
- Alcohol can impede protein assimilation.
- Alcohol can affect digestion.
- Alcohol can affect your quality of sleep.
Alcohol does contain fluids but its diuretic effect will make you lose more valuable water.
- Minimize Caffeine – Coffee is a favourite drink of runners and other athletes. It not only provides a nice “perk-me-up” but coffee contains anti-oxidants that keep your body healthy. Coffee is rich in caffeine which has also been studied to increase muscular force contraction.
However, similar to alcohol, caffeine has a diuretic effect. Taking too much coffee or green tea before a race can make you lose more water and increase your susceptibility to muscle cramping.
If you must drink coffee before a run, limit it to just one cup. Make sure to follow it up with 16 ounces of water.
- Take In Water Before the Race – We mentioned earlier that in the days before the race, you should drink as much water as you can. However, what about on the hour before the race?
Drinking too much water will make you take frequent bathroom breaks during the run. You won’t like that especially if you are competing in a race or trying to beat your personal best.
Ideally, one hour before the run, just drink 16 ounces of water. This will be enough to keep you hydrated without heading over to the nearest portable toilet.
- Drink to Thirst – When thirst hits you during a run, drink right away. Thirst is a sign that you are under-hydrated which is just a few strides from being dehydrated.
Take a few sips from your water bottle. Most organized races have drinking stations that serve small cups of water or a sports drink to help you stay hydrated. The reason the servings are so small is to keep you from getting bloated or full during a run.
If you want to be more precise, here is a hydration schedule that you can follow:
- Drink 4 to 6 ounces of water for every 20 minutes;
- Runners who can do an 8-minute mile should drink 6 to 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes;
- Include sports drinks or coconut water if your run will exceed 90 minutes.
- Hydrate After the Run – Never overlook your post-run hydration. Taking the correct amount of fluids will help speed up recovery and repair damaged muscle tissue.
The baseline guide is to drink 20 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of bodyweight that you’ve lost during the run.
You can take in a sports drink or coconut water to replace lost minerals. You may also drink chocolate milk or a whey protein shake which contain the amino acids needed to repair worn out muscles.
Training, rest, and nutrition are the cornerstones of a successful running program. An overlooked, yet equally important component is hydration. Always keep in mind that your body is composed mostly of water. It is a vital ingredient for sustaining life. You should never separate hydration and running.
If you took the time to plan your training and nutrition schedule, you should also apply the same level of dedication toward your hydration.
Stay hydrated; stay healthy.