Welcome back to the Running Coaches’ Corner linkup! This month we’re talking nutrition. And what goes along with nutrition but isn’t quite nutrition? If you answered hydration, you got it.
One thing I always say to my clients is “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!” Being hydrated is critical to a stellar performance or training run. If you’re not properly hydrated, you’re not going to perform well and you certainly won’t feel at the top of your game.
Let’s talk about water and everything awesome about it today.
Water and Electrolytes
Did you know a person can survive without food for up to three weeks? But without water, body systems begin failing within three days. We’re not talking extremes today. We’re just talking running. But the point here is to paint a picture to drive home how important hydration is for athletes and runners — and all living things.
Water is the single largest component in the human body. But the word water, in this case, is a misnomer. Because when we talk about water in the body, it’s not true H2O that we guzzle when we’re thirsty. Water in this case actually contains a wide range of electrolytes. These electrolytes help our cells and muscles keep a balance and are crucial to ensuring we are well-hydrated, functioning individuals. When we are properly hydrated, we feel good, we have energy, and our body is in balance.
Dangers of Dehydration
Runners and other athletes are susceptible to fluid loss much more rapidly than the average individual. And it makes sense because through sweat loss alone, we can lose up to 3 liters of fluid per hour depending on the activity. If we’re not continually rehydrating throughout exercise, we can begin to become dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration can include:
- Increased body temperature
- Impaired performance, or feelings of sluggishness
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Heat exhaustion
If you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms during a run, maybe you were bordering on dehydration. Being dehydrated by even as little as 2% can — and does — impact performance.
When I look back on my own experiences, there have been so many times I had GI issues on a run. The first year or so, I chalked it up to being a newbie runner. But as I have much more experience under my belt now, I know that when I have a tummy ache on the run, something is definitely not right. I never used to run with fluids. Now I run with an electrolyte drink and it has made a world of difference.
When it comes to hydration, you don’t want to mess around. Sure, GI discomfort isn’t fun on a run. But heat exhaustion and hallucinations are the last steps until you’re in the danger zone. If you’re not feeling great on a run, evaluate why. And if it comes back to not having enough fluids, start drinking.
How Much Fluid Am I Losing?
To properly determine how much fluid you’re losing through exercise you should weigh yourself just before and immediately after an hour of exercise. You have to do this unclothed, however, or your results will be skewed. For every 2 pounds you lose, you can ballpark an average of a liter in fluid loss.
Before you go out for a run, make sure you’re properly hydrated. While you’re running, drink as much as you can without making yourself feel sick. And when you’re finished running, be sure to rehydrate yourself right away! A tip to rehydrate after a tough workout is to aim for about 16-18 oz of fluids immediately after your workout, and then about 8 oz every 20 minutes or so for about three hours after.
Tips to Stay Hydrated on the Run
Now that we’ve discussed why you need to stay hydrated (as if that were even a question to begin with, right?), let’s talk about HOW to stay hydrated on the run!
There are tons of hydration products on the market. Sports drinks, fancy fruit flavored waters, powder mixes. Hydration belts, hydration packs, handheld water bottles. The list could truly go on, and on, and on… it’s easy to become overwhelmed and intimidated.
For me, I found that a hydration vest works infinitely better than a hydration belt. Belts cut into my belly and can negatively impact my GI tract. (Didn’t we just talk about my belly aches on the run? Thought so.) For that reason, I love vests and packs. It just feels more natural for me to wear something on my back instead of around my waist. Contrarily, my bestie loves her handheld water bottle. She doesn’t own a waist pack or a vest. The handheld is easy for her to use, there’s plenty of storage, etc.
While this might not be the definitive answer you were looking for, the answer is simple. There is no right answer. If you’re new to running longer distances and need something for hydration and fuel, I recommend finding something inexpensive first. That way you’ll know if it works for you without spending a fortune.
When it comes to the actual drink itself, again, it varies so much by individual. While one product may be extremely salty to one person, the next product may be too sugary. It’s a lot of trial and error and you just have to figure out what works best for you, your hydration needs, and what your tummy is able to tolerate on the run.
Try to seek out “sample packs” or ask your friends (or coach!) for some ideas or if they have any extras for you to try. Hydration, much like nutrition, is very individual so it will definitely take some trial and error.
But fear not! Because you will definitely find something that works for you. And if you don’t, water will always be your friend.
I would love to go on and on about hydration. There’s a lot to cover. But I think this is a good stopping point for this week. What are the takeaways from today?
- Stay hydrated!
- Dehydration is no joke.
- Find a hydration system that works for you — a combination of bottles (hey, maybe you stash them on your route and don’t even have to run with bottles!) and drinks, and you’re good to go.
I’m gonna give you some homework. (Remember how we did that with Form February?) For your next long run, I want you to weigh yourself (neked, of course) before and after to determine how much fluid you lose. Then, I want you to come up with a plan of action to replace said lost fluids. I’ll check in with you to see how you did at our next Running Coaches’ Corner linkup.
TALK TO ME!
Do you drink water or a sports drink on the run?
Have you experienced GI discomfort due to possible dehydration?