Two common questions I receive from youth and adult runners are:
- How much should I hydrate when I run?
- Do I drink water or a sport drink?
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the fluid loss is greater than fluid intake. Fluid loss can occur from urine, feces, and sweat. Dehydration prohibits the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the cells and prohibits the body from cooling itself (thus causing muscle cramps, altered body temperature, and decreased cognitive function).
The cool thing is, our bodies are always seeking equilibrium. (Que thirst) And our body signals thirst sensation that will drive us to replace the fluid that we have lost.
How often should I hydrate during a run?
The ‘how much’ question is where many experts disagree. You may have been told in the past to drink eight glasses of water a day. Or X ounces based on your body weight.
However, fluid needs vary by individual and fluid lost.
(Not the concrete answer you were looking for?)
To ensure that you are providing your body with the proper hydration, be conscientious of your fluid intake before, during, and after exercise.
According to research conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine and Dietitians of Canada, beginning exercise well-hydrated is important, as it is challenging to match fluid intake to sweat loss while exercising. A general guideline is to drink eight ounces of fluid 15 to 30 minutes before exercise.
During activity, drink to thirst.
After exercise, drink to thirst.
Do I drink water or a sports drink to hydrate?
Good ‘ole tap water is perfect for everyday hydration and light to moderate activity. For prolonged activity (more than 1 hour) or activity that causes excess sweating (fluid loss), fluid replacement with electrolytes is recommended.
Electrolytes are minerals found in your blood that help regulate and control the balance of fluids in the body. These minerals help regulate blood pressure, muscle contraction and keep your system functioning properly.
The top three electrolytes are:
When selecting an electrolyte replacement beverage, remember you are looking for sodium, potassium, and magnesium replacement, not sugar, artificial colors or flavors.
After your run or workout, you can replenish sodium with fluid and food options. Dairy milk, chocolate milk (my favorite) and soy milk are great post-workout options with sufficient carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. Even non-dairy milk options offer small amounts of sodium and potassium to help replenish electrolyte stores.
Things to remember to stay hydrated.
Monitor Your Urine
Urine that is darker in color and low in volume is indicative of dehydration. Aim for a light-colored urine at regular intervals to gauge your hydration status. If your urine is clear it may indicate that you have lower essential salt and electrolyte levels. The desired urine color is light yellow.
Drink to Thirst
Your body is always seeking out equilibrium. If experience thirst, drink water. If you are sweating, drink water with an electrolyte replacement.
In summary, hydration is very important before, during, and after running for youth and adults. Drink to thirst is the best indicator to how much water your body requires to maintain equilibrium. Depending on activity levels, heat, and fluid loss, drinking an electrolyte replacement beverage may be beneficial. Look for electrolyte replacement beverages that are absent of artificial colors and sweeteners.