Every athlete has unique hydration needs. Learn what your body requires by fine-tuning your hydration plan during your training runs.
Weigh it out. Knowing your sweat rate can be a good indication of how much to drink. While your goal isn’t to match your sweat rate in fluid consumption, you should try to get as close to it as is comfortable, and be careful not to exceed it. Take the Sweat Test:
- Take a naked body weight before a training run.
- Follow with a very easy, 5 to 10-minute warm-up. Then run at your average race pace effort for one hour in the conditions you expect on race day. Keep track of any water you drink (measure in ounces) and avoid urinating, or any other fluid loss, if possible.
- After one hour, remove your clothes, wipe off all the sweat from your body and hair and take another naked body weight.
- Subtract your post-run weight from your pre-run weight and convert to ounces. (1 pound = 1 pint or 16 oz. of water). Add the number of ounces of fluid you drank if applicable.
- This number will be the amount of ounces you should drink per hour to stay fully hydrated in similar conditions.
Understand Electrolytes. Electrolytes are an important component of sports nutrition and one of the easiest to quickly change. Dehydration and electrolyte deficits can cause cardiovascular complications, muscle cramping, fatigue, dizziness and confusion. Not only does this hurt your overall aerobic performance, but it can cause you to pass out or even create a risk for other health complications. Electrolytes include more than just Sodium. Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Chloride all play a role in the hydration of cells.
Choose wisely. For most runs under two hours plain water is adequate; however, every runner has different needs, use the following as a general guideline:
WHEN TO DRINK WATER – for shorter duration, less than two hours, plain water is adequate.
- Ensure 30-45 minutes pre-run you’ve had at least 8oz of water.
- Carry water on every run and drink according to a schedule (every mile, every 5 minutes…) Be consistent and increase the frequency of intake based on weather conditions.
WHEN TO ADD ELECTROLYTES – when training or racing for more than two hours, especially if you have high sweat loss. Consider adding electrolytes if you answer yes to any of the following:
- Are you a heavy sweater?
- Is the run longer than two hours?
- Are there extreme environmental conditions: heat, humidity?
- Have you been feeling fatigued on recent runs?
- Do you have muscle cramps during or post run?
Electrolyte replacement options:
Option 1: Electrolyte Salt Either in tablet form (Saltstick Electrolyte Capsules) or granulated form (Base Electrolyte Salt), these electrolyte supplements provide Vitamin D3, Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride, Sodium and Potassium. Not only does it work quickly, electrolyte salt helps prevent the gastrointestinal distress often associated with electrolyte drinks that are loaded with sugars.
Option 2: Electrolyte Drinks Commercial sports drinks provide both electrolytes and calories but often contain high amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients which can sometimes create digestive issues. Other options include water mix-ins such as Scratch, NUUN, Infinit and Tailwind brands. Calories and sugar content vary with each. Sample different products during runs and see what is most compatible to your taste palette and digestive needs.
How to Carry Water. Here are some different options as well as the pros and cons:
- Hydration pack – hands free, easy to sip anytime, can be hot and more clean up time
- Handheld small – light, fits to palm, low water volume
- Handheld large – keeps water cold, plenty of fluids, must be conscious of form
- Hydration belt – extra storage, good volume, bounce or chaffing issues
Do not over drink. Trust your thirst, and during training runs, use your pre- and post-run weight as your guide. Weight gain is a sure sign you’re drinking too much.
Know your colors. Aim for your urine to be a pale yellow hue, rather than dark like apple juice (a sign of dehydration) or clear like water (which might signal over hydration).
Act fast. If you are not feeling well during or after the race and simple changes don’t make you better, don’t try to tough it out. It’s always best to seek medical help right away, so that you don’t progress into dangerous territory.