How best to hydrate for running | Sports Nutrition Tips

You might be surprised to learn that dehydration can not only impact your performance, but also increase the risk for orthopedic injuries. Dehydration greatly increases fatigue, which in turn causes runners to lose proper running form.

Here are five tips to help you stay hydrated during your long runs on hot days.

Tip 1: Start hydrating early

If time permits, Calgary Dietitians normally recommend that you start hydrating at least four hours before running or make sure to go to bed well hydrated. If you are already well hydrated, try not to drink one to two hours before going to bed; otherwise, your bladder might wake you up during the night.

A good rule to follow is to drink about 500 ml or 2 cups of liquid four hours before your workout or two hours before going to bed.

Tip 2: Use your urine color as your hydration guide

There is no point in overhydrating. Drinking too much can even cause hyponatremia (not enough sodium in the blood) because of too much water diluting the blood. This can become dangerous and in extreme circumstances can even cause heart failure. If your urine is transparent, you are overhydrated. If your urine is light yellow two hours before your run, you are well hydrated. In these two situations, there is normally no reason to drink more.

You can also compare your pee color with this useful urine chart to help you better understand your hydration status.

Tip 3: Double-check your hydration 2 hours before running

Two hours before you train, see if your urine is darker than it should be. If it is on the darker side, drink another 250 to 500 ml. If not, no need to drink any more—you did a good job hydrating properly.

Some people are still scared of not drinking enough and force themselves to drink when their urine shows they are well hydrated. Don’t force yourself if you don’t want to feel like peeing your pants while running!

Tip 4: Drink again 5–15 minutes before you start your run

Because you will normally sweat more when running in the summer, starting your run with a belly full of liquid is a good idea. When we drink, the liquid is not absorbed immediately and takes some time to reach your blood, muscles, and heart.

On hot days we can sweat more than 1 L per hour. Drinking 5 to 15 minutes before your run will help you avoid dehydration and potentially avoid the need to bring more water or an extra sports drink in a hydration belt while you run. Do keep in mind that sports nutrition studies have found that the human body can usually absorb a maximum of 1 L per hour.

Tip 5: Know your individual sweat rate!

In sports nutrition,everyone is different. Determining the rate at which you sweat is very easy to do and allows you to plan for your hydration needs in advance. The goal is to maintain a stable weight, plus or minus 0.5 kg (or 1 lb), for the entire duration of your run.

Step 1: Weigh yourself immediately before you run.
Step 2: Weigh yourself right after your run after removing any sweaty clothing. Consider any weight you might have lost to be water. If you lost 1 kg in a one-hour run, your sweat rate is 1 L per hour.

1 kg of weight loss = 1 L of water lost

With this new knowledge in hand, you can plan to bring 1 L of water or sports drink with you on your next run. This will make you feel better and perform at your best.

Bonus Tip | How to know when you are dehydrated while running

Dehydration is dangerous. If you have participated in the Calgary marathon before, I am certain you have seen people being helped by paramedics—and often leaving on stretchers. Marathons are an extreme sport because we learn to tolerate pain as runners and we often push beyond our limits.

Some symptoms of dehydration should not be ignored. When these symptoms occur, you should seriously consider stopping to ensure proper hydration or even dropping the run entirely.

– Tingling in the hands and feet
– Confusion
– Dry skin (i.e., sweating stops)
– Drowsiness, dizziness, extreme fatigue
– Breathing difficultiesNumbness or tingling in the extremities

All in all, plan ahead and you will have the time of your life!

Running is liberating. Hydrate yourself well and maximize your energy to avoid running injuries.


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