Stay hydrated09 May, 2013 0 comments
The importance of staying hydrated
Being just two per cent dehydrated will cause a decline in performance, suggests research by the U.S Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
This means that for optimal results, and for maintaining good health, proper hydration should be a part of both your training runs and races. Look at this from the bright side – you can probably improve your performance just by adjusting the amount that you drink during your workouts!
What happens if you don’t drink enough or drink too much?
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this issue. There have been cases where improper hydration has resulted fatal for marathon runners, and this has turned scientists’ interest towards the matter.
It’s not just running performance that will lessen with dehydration. Mild symptoms can include nausea, extreme thirst and a dry mouth. If it gets worse, there might be lightheadedness and the loss of sweating. Finally, dehydration can cause cramps, chills and deorientation. Thus, it’s with good reason that runners have been advised to avoid dehydration.
However, in recent times drinking too much – as opposed to too little – has become a bigger problem. According to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, 13% of the runners at Boston Marathon in 2002 may have been drinking too much, experiencing a condition called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia, which occurs when fluid intake exceeds fluid loss from sweating – thus resulting in low blood-sodium levels – can be as bad as dehydration and even have similar symptoms, like nausea, disorientation, muscle weakness, and in the worst cases coma and death.
This shows that the answer is not avoiding dehydration by drinking as much as possible, but – instead – in the right balance!
How much should you drink?
There’s been debate about the adequate hydration amount for athletes for years.
Although for a long time the prevalent argument was that it is important to drink before getting thirsty – on the grounds that the feeling of thirst itself shows that the damage has already been done – the tables have turned. Renewed fluid recommendation guidlines set out by the International Marathon Medical Directors Association in 2006, claim that the answer lies in simplicity.
Listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty!
Differences in running pace, climate, body weight, sweat rate, gender, metabolic rate and terrain will influence individual need for drinking every time, and thus it is difficult to name a predetermined amount that a runner should consume at any workout or race.
The IMMDA guidelines suggest that usually there is not need to ingest more than 3-6oz of fluid per mile, depending on bodyweight, although quantities for elite athletes may vary.
To make sure you are drinking a proper amount during a workout or a race, you can weigh yourself before and after. If the weight fluctuation is more than 3 per cent of your overall bodyweight, you should adjust your fluid intake, in order to avoid hindering your performance and health.
Water or sports drink – what’s best?
As you run, your body will not only be deprived of fluids, but also run lower on fuel in the form of carbohydrates, and lack electrolytes and sodium.
When training up to half an hour, feel free to just hydrate with water. However, during any training or race that exceeds 30 minutes, sports drinks are recommended, as they will help replenish electrolyte and glycogen stores in your body, giving you an energy kick and speeding the absorption of fluids. IMMDA suggests that sports drinks should be drunk in their original form, as diluting them or alternating them with water also waters down their benefits.
If you wish, you can supplement with energy gels during really long runs, but make sure you drink the indicated amount of water with them to get them down!
Extra tricks to stay properly hydrated
1. Prehydrate before a run – To arrive to your workout or race properly hydrated, running coach Cassie Dimmick suggests drinking 8-16 ounces one to two hours before a run. Alternatively, you can drink four to eight ounces of fluid 15 to 30 minutes prior to starting. For this, both water and sports drinks are good choices.
2. Plan your drinks – If you think you might forget to drink enough, pre-planning your drinking times might help you to remember better. Still need extra help? Set a watch alarm to remind you every once in a while. However, remember that you don’t need to drink if there’s no real thirst.
3. Flavour your meals before the run – Adding salt to your meals before long workouts and races will ensure higher electrolyte levels.
4. Don’t drink too much during race week – Keep your fluid intake level normal during the week leading up to a race, to avoid diluting your blood sodium levels.
Final word of advice
At the end of the day, it’s important to not overthink hydration.
Drink fluids, sports drinks if running long, don’t overdo it, listen to your thirst!
Do what feels right, and you’re much closer to performing your best!