Feel better and run faster by taking hydration seriously
Getting your hydration levels wrong can have a serious impact on your running – and recovery. It’s not just about how fast you run. Being dehydrated can affect your digestion, your heart, and even your brain.
Every single system and cell in your body needs enough fluid and electrolytes to function well. So start taking hydration seriously – especially as a runner!
Are you making these common hydration mistakes?
#1 Electrolytes? What Are They?
Water is great – but electrolytes are important too. Electrolytes are crucial for every function in the body, including the health of your muscles, nerves, and heart. You might already know that sodium is an electrolyte (because it leaves a distinctive mark on your running kit after a hot run!). Other important electrolytes are magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and potassium.
You must use an electrolyte powder, dis-solvable tablet, or ready made drink as part of your hydration strategy. Water is not enough. Coconut water is a reasonable option, but lacks the optimal balance (most notable not enough sodium). Stop drinking plain water, and start adding electrolytes to your hydration.
#2 You Don’t Drink Much Water
Most runners drink enough during or after a run. But how about during the day? Or on non-running days? You need to stay on top of your water intake all the time – not just when you’re running. Binge drinking water won’t work. Drink little and often all day long, starting in the morning (ideally before you leave the house) and finishing at night (as close as you can to bedtime without disrupting sleep with extra toilet visits).
Have a glass of water or herbal tea in the morning. Take a water bottle with you during the day. Have water on your desk. Drink a glass of water before meals. And sip on water, sugar free squash, or herbal tea in the evening.
As a runner, you really need to be drinking more water than you think. And it’s not just about your running performance. More water will help you have clearer skin, better digestion, and clearer thinking.
#3 You Don’t Salt Your Food
Somewhere along the line, salt became the bad guy. We stopped adding it to food, we removed it from the dinner table. But as a runner (in fact, as a human being), you need salt.
Yes, a diet too high in salt can be problematic – contributing to high blood pressure and other health issues. But as a runner, you need more salt than most. Try adding a small amount of salt to your food, or eating salted snacks like nuts, pretzels, or baked-style crisps alternatives.
#4 You Use Gels
Running gels are a great way to get the energy you need for races and longer runs. But a supplementary diet of gels – and no sports drinks – could leave you dehydrated. Not only are you missing out on the sheer volume of fluid, but you might not get a good balance of electrolytes either.
Try a mix of gels (or your energy boost of choice) with sports drinks. Look for drinks with that optimal balance of electrolytes. And stay hydrated.
#5 Your Diet Is Short On Minerals
We all need plenty of micronutrients – including minerals – but runners have a special need for magnesium and potassium. It’s no surprise that fruits like bananas are popular with runners. They are high in potassium, which your entire body needs.
To avoid vitamin and mineral deficiency, consider taking a quality multi vitamin (preferably one designed for active bodies). And make sure your diet is well rounded and balanced, with plenty of fruit, berries, vegetables, and leaves.
Good sources of magnesium include leafy greens, seeds, and lentils
Good sources of potassium include bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and beetroot.
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