Did you know: water is second only to oxygen in physical essentials for the human body. As you already know, running increases the need for water, electrolytes and optimum hydration. With warm weather heading our way, here’s how much water to drink, how to know when you’re drinking too much, and what to add to your water for top hydration.
It’s very difficult to drink enough whilst running (particularly on long runs or in longer races). In fact, research reassures us that low-level dehydration and thirst is not only to be expected, but is actually OK, whilst running. Whilst it’s undeniably important to pay attention to hydration during running, our focus should be on staying well hydrated during the day, away from running, and on rehydrating after training runs and races.
It’s important to start every training run and race well hydrated. Try drinking 500ml (half a litre) of water or electrolyte drink about two hours before your run, and then a further 100-200ml just before you set off. This is a good habit to get into and will keep your cells hydrated, yet give you time to empty your bladder before you set off.
It will then be important to rehydrate after your run. Here’s an interesting experiment to try: weigh yourself before and after your run. For every kilogram of weight lost (through sweating), you need to drink a whopping 1.5 litres of water, sports drink, or electrolyte drink. Try it – you might be surprised by how much you need to drink after your run! Break down your rehydration needs by drinking 500ml (half a litre) pretty quickly after your run, certainly within 20-30 minutes. Then keep sipping over the next hour or so until you have drunk what your weigh-in calculations dictate.
What’s best to drink? Don’t rely on sports drinks. Whilst they can be useful, they can also be heavy on the sugar and full of unnecessary artificial extras (and calories!) For longer runs and races, you might want to incorporate sports drinks into your hydration plan, but they still shouldn’t be the only thing you drink. Far better is water with added electrolyte tablets or drops (there are several on the market – Nuun and Elete water are two good makes). Or you could make your own by adding a very small pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt to water or sugar free squash.
Be aware of the risks of drinking too much water: women are more at risk of hyponatraemia (low levels of sodium in the blood) because they are smaller and have less body mass than men, which means they tend to sweat less and therefore need to drink less. So don’t try to keep up with the men in your running club or training group. Your body’s thirst signals are pretty reliable. If you feel very full, sick, or bloated, you may be drinking too much water. Remember that it’s more important to stay hydrated during the day (and on days you don’t run), and to start your run well hydrated, than it is to gulp down excessive amounts whilst running.
A good guide is to drink 1 litre of water or other non-caffeinated fluid for every 1,000 calories you burn every day. That’s total burn, not just the calories expended during running. For a 10 stone woman running for 30 minutes, this might realistically be 2500-3000 kcals: 2.5-3 litres. Try these tips for staying hydrated, 24/7:
- drink a glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon on waking.
- carry a bottle of water with you in the car, in your handbag, whilst out and about.
- drink a tall glass of water before every meal.
- finish the day with a favourite herbal tea.
It goes without saying that if you’re running in hot, humid conditions, during a heatwave, or in a different climate to the one you’re used to, your hydration needs will probably change.