Stay hydrated to run your best!
Staying well hydrated is an easy way to improve your running! It’s important to remember that dehydration is a danger in any weather, not just on hot days. Staying hydrated is essential for performing critical functions while we exercise. Our core temperature rises when we run and we perspire to lose this excess body heat. Body water loss through sweat is an important cooling mechanism! Maintaining the water content of the blood through proper hydration enables us to regulate our body’s functions better.
When we run, our body not only directs more blood to the skin to assist with cooling, but also directs more blood to the working muscles. A commonly overlooked symptom of exercise is a decrease in plasma volume in the blood. This is essentially the water content in the blood. As it decreases, the power output of the muscles will decrease, due to there being less oxygen-rich blood getting to the working muscles to assist with muscle contraction. In states of dehydration our body inevitably slows down and our physical and mental performance is negatively affected. Symptoms include higher heart rate, impaired aerobic capacity and reduced concentration.
Hydrate pre, mid and post your long runs
Planning what you are going to drink before a run, during a run and after a run will help you avoid the common symptoms of dehydration. If you’re heading out for longer than 60mins then you’ll need to take on a sufficient volume of fluid to replace that which is lost (in sweat and breath) in order to maintain the same level of performance. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do without if it’s not that warm. Windy conditions can mask how much you are sweating and you lose more water than you think when it is cooler.
Have a drink before you go! Take on 300-600ml of water 2 hours before you run for the best results. Even something like coffee can help, as contrary to what many people believe, coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you. Having an Americano is best but milk can actually hydrate us better than water, so every style will work.
During your runs it’s best to drink little and often. Studies have proven that this is a more effective way to hydrate than drinking larger quantities in big gulps. Aiming for about 300-500ml per hour depending on the intensity of exercise is recommended.
Re-hydrating after a run is just as important. Replenishing the fluid you have lost will improve your recovery and get you ready for next run. Adding electrolytes will aid the speed of recovery!
Water or Sports Drinks?
Plain water is fine if the intensity of exercise is low to mild and the weather is cool. However if you’re training hard and it’s warmer, water will not hydrate you as well a sports drink. The reason for this is quite simple. We lose salt (sodium) whenever we sweat and salt helps the body to absorb water and get fluids to the right places, like the muscles and blood. Water provides no sodium, but electrolyte drinks do – increasing our rate of absorption and allowing water to get into the blood stream quicker.
Not all sports drinks are the same and you should avoid drinks such as Lucozade and anything that has a similar make up (high sugar).
If it’s warm and you’re training at low intensity, then drinking water with electrolytes is ideal. Effervescent tablets are the easiest way to make up an electrolyte drink. Do experiment with different brands though, to see what works best for you. For example, one NUUN tablet equates to two High5 tablets so they are not all made the same. If you’re training at high intensity and it’s hot then you should aim to achieve a 4% solution drink using electrolytes. This will maintain your plasma volume better and your performance will be better. Including electrolytes in your fluid after exercise is also essential to rehydrate effectively. Drinking plain water is not great as it will not replenish the nutrients you have lost.
Beware. Drinking too much plain water can lead to Hyponatraemia. Hyponatraemia is a condition where your sodium levels are diluted to dangerously low levels. This is why important to work out how much you’re likely to sweat depending on weather/your intensity and then adapt your plan accordingly.
Unfortunately there’s no one plan that works for all but the principles outlined above apply to all. If you follow them and start incorporating them in to your training, then you will see better results!
There are loads of products out there, which enable you to carry fluids on the run comfortably and easily. At Run4It we divide our hydration range into 3 main categories: Bottles, Waistpacks and Backpacks. Read more about these in our ‘3 ways to stay hydrated while running’ blog!