By Alicia Shay
There is currently so much confusion about what to drink, when to drink and how much to drink. My most straightforward advice is to keep it relatively simple.
- Always start your day with at least 2 glasses of water (around 16 ounces) shortly after waking up.
- Hydrate consistently throughout the day (not just at meals) to ensure that you are not beginning runs in a dehydrated state.
- If you are training in extreme heat or humidity OR training or racing over 60 minutes then it is a good idea to take in fluids while running (water or a carbohydrate based drink).
- You do not need to drink electrolyte-based drink while training unless you are meeting or exceeding your hydration needs during training or racing (which can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia).
- In order to know if you fall into this category, simply weigh yourself before and immediately after runs.
- If you are consistently losing weight then you do not need to consume an electrolyte based drink and can just stick with water or a carbohydrate based drink. Aim to replace around ½ or your fluid loss while you are running. 16 ounces=1 lb. So if you are consistently losing 2 pounds during a 90 minute run, try to drink around 16 ounces during the run. You can make up for the additional fluid loss after you are finished training.
- If you drinking so much water while running that you are maintaining or even gaining weight then you are at risk for becoming HYPONATRAEMIC and are drinking too much. This can be a very serious condition and you need to decrease your fluid intake. This would be the only circumstance where you should take in sodium (through drink or tablet) to balance out your body’s sodium levels.
- Sports drink companies have done a great job of convincing consumers that they need beverages containing electrolytes while training. This simply is not true. Even individuals that are heavy sweaters, train in hot weather or participate in long training sessions do not lose enough salt to need sodium replacement while training.
- The only reason a runner should need to take in sodium is if they are drinking too much. Over hydration will cause a significant drop in sodium levels but even excessive sweating will only cause a minimal drop in sodium levels.
- Dehydration can somewhat limit performance but OVER HYDRATION CAN BE FATAL.
- Listen to your bodies thirst cues. Everyone sweats and loses fluid at a different rate so it is important to listen to your own body. If you are constantly thirsty and parched during runs, drink more water throughout the day and drink more fluids during training and races. If you feel like you are constantly forcing down liquids and do not feel thirsty, then you probably do not need to drink as much.
- Practice! If you are training to compete in a long race (1/2 marathon, marathon or ultra marathon) then it is really important to practice drinking during training so that on race day you are comfortable taking in fluids while running hard. Also, it is beneficial to get an idea of how much water weight you typically lose so that you can have a good idea of how much fluid you should be taking in while running.
- Immediately after you are done with hard training or a race, make sure to hydrate and refuel to offset the fluid and fuel lost while running.