For runners, dehydration can be a major problem. Heidi Skolnik, a sports nutritionist at HSS, discusses the indications of dehydration and offers recommendations for incorporating water into daily and training routines.
Consuming adequate fluids each day is critical for everyone, regardless of activity level. While individual needs vary, the National Academy of Sciences recommends that women consume 2.7 liters of water daily and males consume 3.7 liters. “This figure includes fluids from beverages and other sources as well as fluids your body processes from foods like vegetables and fruit,” says Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, a sports nutritionist at HSS’s Women’s Sports Medicine Center. This leaves around 9 cups of liquids per day for women and 13 cups per day for males.
Hydration is critical for runners. “Running and sweating boost our fluid requirements,” Skolnik explains. This may result in dehydration, which may manifest as headaches, rapid heartbeat, and fatigue—and may also cause you to slow down during your run. “Dehydration is caused by a variety of factors, including temperature and humidity, the duration and intensity of your exercise, your body weight, and your own specific sweat rate,” Skolnik continues. She gives the following ideas to assist you to avoid being derailed by dehydration.
How to determine if you are dehydrated
Thirst is an evident indicator that you require additional fluids. However, as we age, our thirst feeling may diminish, according to Skolnik. “When we workout and dehydrate, our thirst system may get overwhelmed.”
Consider your pee as a technique to determine whether you require additional fluids. If you pee less frequently or in smaller amounts than normal, or if your urine is darker than straw yellow, she explains, you are dehydrated.
Another approach to track your fluid intake while running is to weigh yourself before and after your run. This will also give you a better feel of your personal sweat rate. When weighing yourself and recording your “before” weight, ensure that you are wearing minimum clothing (“Naked is much more accurate,” Skolnik adds). After your run, blot your body dry and then take your “after” measurement. “Remember to add whatever liquids you consumed while jogging to your ‘after’ weight,” she advises.
For instance, suppose you ran for 90 minutes and weighed 164 pounds before and 163 pounds after your run. You drank 8 ounces of water during your run. Adding the 16 ounces from the pound you lost and the 8 ounces of water you drank results in a total sweat loss of 24 ounces. By dividing that number by the amount of time spent jogging, you may determine your sweat rate. “If you sweated more than 2% to 3% of your body weight throughout your run, it’s time to rethink your fluid consumption strategy,” Skolnik says.
When and how much alcohol to consume
Consuming an adequate amount of water throughout your run is only one component of the equation. “If you incorporate hydration into your entire feeding strategy, you’ll have a much easier time staying hydrated,” Skolnik says. Simply keep in mind that more is not necessarily better. “Excessive water consumption will not hydrate you and may instead dehydrate you,” she continues, as your kidneys will detect when you’ve hit your limit and alert you to pee more.
When you wake up, before you go to bed, and with each snack or meal, drink a glass of water (or more, depending on your needs and routines). “When our stomachs are half full, our bodies absorb more fluid,” Skolnik explains.
Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and sip frequently; your body will absorb more water this way than if you wait and drink a large amount all at once.
Prior to, during, and following your run:
6 to 16 ounces of water approximately 1 to 2 hours before running.
Divide the amount of sweat you lose per hour by three or four using your own personal sweat rate from the previous calculation. Skolnik recommends drinking this amount every 15 to 20 minutes during your run to keep up with your fluid loss, especially on lengthy runs. “If you are a heavy sweater, you may be unable to be precise; thus, strive to minimize the amount lost.”
Replace each pound lost during a run with 24 ounces of fluid. According to Skolnik, depending on the length of your run, it may also be beneficial to consume a recovery snack that contains some protein and carbohydrates in addition to hydration. “This can take the form of a smoothie or shake, or it can be as simple as yogurt and bananas, or a bar with fluid.” On long run, be careful to include salt, which is necessary for fluid equilibrium.
What to consume
All beverages, including juice, milk, plain or flavored seltzers, herbal tea, and even caffeinated teas and coffee, contribute toward your fluid requirements, according to Skolnik. “If plain water bores you, try soaking some berries, sage, or cucumber slices in a pitcher of water overnight to create flavor-infused water to sip throughout the day,” she says.
Cool or cold water is usually a wonderful option for your runs, especially those lasting shorter than 60 minutes. Sports drinks contain carbs to stave off weariness and electrolytes to maintain proper fluid balance. This is especially critical if your run is longer than 60 to 90 minutes, exceptionally hard, or takes place in harsh conditions such as high temperatures or altitude, according to Skolnik. Sodium, an electrolyte that is necessary for fluid equilibrium, is critical to consume along with water when sweating profusely.
Additionally, the stomach is trainable and adjusts with practice. “You can actually teach your gut to increase absorption and assist you in running strong,” Skolnik explains. Climb your liquids and carbohydrate intake as your mileage increase. When jogging for more than an hour, she recommends coordinating fluids (including sodium) with feeding. “By segmenting your runs into 15- to 20-minute pieces and beginning drinking and fuelling early, you can remain ahead of your needs.”