Tip of the Week: Hydration

It’s pretty much common knowledge that it’s important to drink water, and you now know, drinking water regularly becomes even more important when training for a marathon.  60-70% of our bodies are made up of water.  Water is extremely important for your body’s functioning:  it feeds your cells, helps you digest and metabolize food, as well as regulates your blood volume and blood pressure.  In order to keep your body running well and efficiently, you have to replenish the water that you lose through sweat, urine, respiration (breathing) and avoid dehydration, which can significantly affect a runner’s performance.

How do you know if you’re dehydrated?  Common signs include thirst, dry mouth, headache, feeling lightheaded, and dark-colored urine.  Signs of severe dehydration can include cramps, chills, and even disorientation.  So, what is the best way to prevent dehydration?  Easy- drink fluids.   Drink them before, during, and after exercise.

How much should you drink?  First, of course, you should be drinking water throughout the day.  A good rule of thumb, drink your body weight x .6 (in ounces) on a daily basis.  To hydrate before your run, make sure you drink 8 to 16 oz of water 1 to 2 hours before a run (or at least try 6 to 8 oz 15-30 minutes before your run).  However, during your long runs, you should also be replenishing the water that you’re losing – about 6 to 8 oz of fluid every 20 minutes during a long run.  But most importantly, drink when you’re thirsty!  Your body is well-tuned to regulate itself, and if you just drink when you’re thirsty, you can avoid underhydrating (leading to dehydration) and overhydrating (hyponatremia). We highly recommend that you carry your own water during your long runs so you don’t have to rely on water fountains, etc. while running. A few great options include water bottles, hydration belts, and Camelbaks. (PLEASE NOTE: Some marathons, including the TCS New York City Marathon, do not allow Camelbaks on race day due to security restrictions. Please check the event code of conduct for your race).

Electrolytes

An important component of staying hydrated is making sure that you are keeping your electrolytes in balance.  Electrolytes are minerals in your body fluids and blood that contain things like salt and potassium.  They directly affect the amount of fluids in your body, and you lose them when you sweat.  When your electrolytes (salt) fall out of balance during long runs, you run into problems like dehydration and possibly muscle cramping (the jury is still out on this).  So, when you run longer than 90 minutes, you should make sure that you are replacing these electrolytes.  There are a couple of ways that you can do this.

1- Electrolyte replacement drinks.  These are things like Powerade and similar sports drinks.  These drinks are best while you are running, but not so good if you’re just sitting around the house.  They have a high glycemic index (lots of sugar), and your body will use it immediately – which is GREAT when you’re running, but not so great when sedentary.  Coconut water, nature’s sports drink, also has electrolyte replenishment capabilities without the sugar rush – which is great for pre- and post-run electrolytes. Here’s an alternative to sports drinks that you can utilize when you are not exercising:
16oz of water
1/8tbsp of Celtic Sea Salt (NOT table salt)
Squeeze a little lemon, lime, orange, mint, etc. for flavor. Enjoy.

2- Salt.  If you notice that you are a “salty sweater” – namely that your face, hat, clothes are grimy with salt when you complete your run, even when you are drinking sports drinks during your run, you should think about taking in additional salt.  Every hour or so, take in the contents of your garden-variety salt packet.  Make sure that you carry your salt packets in a little plastic baggie.  Otherwise, your sweat will disintegrate the packets.  If you find that you are still leaving a salt trail behind you after your long runs, try taking a packet every 45 minutes.  You can also use electrolyte replacement (salt pills) such as Salt Stick… take approximately 1 pill an hour (dependent on body size and sweat production, how much salt you lose- “Salty Sweater”).

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