It may only be the beginning of May, but with the unseasonably warm temperatures around the country, it’s already getting pretty darn warm! Although properly hydrating is always an important concern as a runner, it is doubly important during the summer months, when the heat sucks the water out of you that much quicker. Dehydration is a significant concern and should be dealt with appropriately to avoid health concerns and maintain optimal performance. This has not always been a strength of mine, and I generally need to work very hard just to drink enough water during the day. Now that my workout levels have increased, I’m realizing that I’m going to need to pay even more attention to hydration than I ever have before. With that in mind, there are a few areas worth commenting on for the purposes of proper hydration.
Dehydration & Hyponatremia: If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. For some reason, this advice from my high school gym teacher still sticks out in my mind. In more technical terms, dehydration results in nausea, dizziness, weakness, and cramps. Water loss varies by person during a run, so in order to find out how much you lose, weigh yourself nude before and after a run. One pound of weight loss typically equals 1 pint of water loss. From there, you can calculate how many fluids you should be consuming per hour. On the flip side, you can also very easily fall victim to the voices telling you to drink constantly, and literally become drunk from too much water consumption, otherwise known as hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels). For this reason, it is that much more important that you understand just how much water your body is losing, and replace it efficiently.
Sports Drinks vs. Water: Sports drinks are designed to hydrate, as well as maximize performance by including carbohydrates and electrolytes. Gatorade and Powerade have become common drinks for athletes and non-athletes alike due to the high sugar content. Thus, you shouldn’t be replacing your water intake during the day with a sports drink. However, they provide crucial energy during a run as you work to maintain fluid and nutrition levels in your body. I’m partial to mixing sports drinks with water during long runs, as it seems to be easier on my stomach. I’m also taking in nutrition in the form of GU Chomps or Gels, so this balance works out well for me. If you are interested in a more in-depth analysis, checking out Running Times’ Guide to Sports Drinks and Gels.
Listening to your Sweat: In addition to the above mentioned signs of dehydration, I’ve found it very important to pay attention to your sweat. Especially when it’s getting hotter out, I tend to sweat profusely, so I’m losing more fluid than I would during a January run. For this reason, I Know I need to focus even more on hydrating. I plan on carrying a water bottle with me on longer runs this summer as well, which doubles as good training for many trail races, which require you to have your own hydration container.
Water Bottles vs. Hydration Packs: Last year, I bought a camel bak hydration pack, thinking it would be a wonderful addition to my running arsenal. On many trail blogs I have read, they sing the praises of hydration packs for longer runs and races, and logically, it made sense. I figured I would try it on the road first and see what I thought. Unfortunately, I chose to try it at the Okoboji Summer Games Half Marathon, which is a rather unpleasantly hot race, run mostly along an exposed highway, in JULY. This was not a good choice. I felt like I was running with a small child on my back during the entire race, and by the end, the warm water wasn’t refreshing anyway. Now, granted, these may not have been optimal conditions, and I know I need to give it more of a chance for running purposes, but as of right now, I’m sticking to water bottles for running. I do enjoy the flexibility carrying water can give you though in terms of route adjustment, and it makes it easier to regulate your hydration, especially on hot days where you should be drinking 4-8 oz. every 15 minutes most likely. My personal favorite right now is the Nathan Quickdraw Plus. You can check out a few other options here as well.
You should also remember that water-rich foods such as cucumber, watermelon, and plums can help with hydration so think about adding them more regularly into your diet. You may also want to keep in mind that warm water is absorbed into the bloodstream slower than cold water, so think about adding ice to your bottle when you go out, or even freezes your bottle the night before and letting it melt during your run!
If you’d like to read more about hydration, check out this great list of links. And, at the end of the day, keep your water and your pee flowing clear! 🙂