Hydration for Runners: Everything You Need to Know

Hydration for Runners: Everything You Need to Know

Staying hydrated seems like it should be pretty simple—just drink when you're thirsty, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take some strategy, especially when you’re a runner. The body is made up primarily of water, so it’s crucial to stay on top of how much you need. Water regulates your body temperature, cushions your joints, aids in digestion, and so much more. When you drink enough fluids, you can maximize your running performance and avoid the yucky side effects of dehydration (think: headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue).

These tips can help you dial in on how much water to drink and when. Keep in mind that all bodies work a little differently, so it may take some trial and error to find the right hydration strategy for you.

How Much to Drink

Exactly how much do you need to drink in a day? Again, this will depend on numerous factors including your body size, the climate, and the amount that you exercise, but a good place to start is approximately 91 ounces (11.5 cups) for adult women and 125 ounces (15.5 cups) for adult men. That sounds like a lot (and it is!), but luckily, it doesn’t have to be plain water. Milk, juice, and herbal teas count as well as the liquid in foods like fruits, vegetables, soups, and smoothies. And for coffee lovers, recent studies have shown that java can hydrate just as well as water. Here’s a breakdown on when and how much to sip.

Before Running

Aim for 12-20 ounces of water in the hours leading up to your run. If your urine is clear or pale yellow, you’re likely well hydrated. If it’s more concentrated, drink another 8-16 ounces.

During Running

A few sips of water is probably sufficient for runs under an hour, but once you start running for more than 60-90 minutes, you’ll need more fluids, in addition to electrolytes and carbohydrates. For longer runs or when the conditions are hot and humid, aim to drink to thirst. It’s important to avoid over hydrating with just water as this can lead to a dangerous electrolyte imbalance called hyponatremia. It can be helpful to know your sweat rate when calculating how much to drink on a run.

To figure out how much water you lose per hour, weigh yourself naked before and after a 60-minute run. Don’t drink anything or use the bathroom during the run. For every pound of body weight lost, you can figure you lost 16 ounces of water via sweat. Aim to replace that amount during and after exercise.

After Running

For most runs you can eat and drink as you normally would and you’ll recover just fine. For particularly hard or long efforts, aim to drink a few cups of fluids within an hour after the run. Continue to focus on drinking to thirst throughout the day and consider adding electrolytes in the form of sports drinks or powders. The extra sodium in these products will help your body hang on to some extra fluid. If you’re looking to speed up recovery, it’s important to choose fluids beyond plain water.

Source: active.com

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