As a runner, you’ve likely read a handful of articles, talked to a few people and have your own ideas about training. While running seems to some as simple as lacing up some shoes and hitting the pavement, there’s quite a bit that goes into actual training to optimize performance. Even if you’ve mastered the gear, the training schedule and the necessary caloric intake, a foundational piece of your performance is going to hinge on your hydration - (hint, it goes way beyond your water bottle).
Do you know your HQ? Don’t worry, we’re not trying to complicate things with yet another acronym but your hydration quotient is a critical piece to your performance. Unfortunately, hydration is often overlooked by athletes in every sport. Some drink too little while others drink too much (yes, that is a thing). How do you know the right amount to drink? When are you supposed to drink? What is best to drink? All of these questions are valid and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Why? Because you and your body, your training, your location and other factors make your hydration requirements highly unique.
We want to make sure you have all of the information so you can do what’s right for your body. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet to find the most reputable sources to see what they have to say so you can become more hydration intelligent. We’ve also talked to the scientists behind our products so you can go even deeper into the “why” on a cellular level.
Take note of what these sources have to teach so you can boost your HQ and your performance.
Runner’s World and the experts they cite provide interesting information to optimize both hydration and performance:
- 30-50% of endurance athletes report various gastrointestinal upsets from drinking during exercise, with runners generally having more problems than cyclists, due to the slosh-producing effects of the up-and-down running movement
- “Smart hydration helps you to run healthy.”
- “In the marathon and longer distances, carb-laden drinks can extend your endurance somewhat. But proper pacing for your fitness and environmental/geographical conditions is always the most important consideration.”
- To optimize performance and diminish stomach problems while running and drinking:
- Avoid milk products
- Go easy on high-fiber foods
- Be careful about aspirin and NSAIDS
- Stay away from high-fructose foods
- Be well-hydrated when you begin exercise
- Practice new hydration strategies
- “The eight glasses a day is totally arbitrary. Everybody, especially athletes, has different needs.” - Susan Yeargin, Ph.D., University of South Carolina
- “Recent research shows that caffeine doses between 250-300 milligrams - about two cups of coffee - will minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consuming it. The research also shows that exercise seems to negate those effects. If you run within one to two hours of drinking coffee, you don’t pee more.” - Susan Yeargin, Ph.D., University of South Carolina
- “Knowing your sweat rate is one way to track your hydration needs, particularly for long runs. Your goal isn’t to match your sweat rate but you should try to get as close as is comfortably possible. For some runners, that may mean replacing two-thirds of the fluid they sweat during the run and you shouldn’t consume more fluids that you’ve lost.” - Doug Casa, Ph.D., University of Connecticut and COO at the Korey Stringer Institute
- “You absolutely can drink too much and it can be deadly. It is most prevalent in smaller runners, those who finish marathons in more than four hours, and those who do a significant amount of walking and running in cooler weather (when your sweat rate isn’t as intense as it is on warm days).” - Doug Casa, Ph.D., University of Connecticut and COO at the Korey Stringer Institute
- “For every one percent of body mass lost through sweat, your body temperature increases by a half a degree, which makes hydration hugely important for preventing heat stroke.” - Doug Casa, Ph.D., University of Connecticut and COO at the Korey Stringer Institute
- “If you’re not replacing fluids with water and sports drinks, and conditions are hot, it creates the perfect storm: your heart is forced to work harder, your glycogen stores run out more quickly (you hit the wall sooner), your cognition is altered (that voice saying “you can’t do this” gets louder), and your body heat rises, increasing the risk of heat stroke.”
Competitor.com and the experts they cite offer helpful tips for runners who participate in races. Race day isn’t the time to figure out your hydration needs. In fact, your training regimen should include hydration testing. This means you will need to practice hydrating for the race while you are training, including understanding the amount of required fluid intake, the timing of intake, the type(s) of fluid and nutrients, and even how you would like to drink the fluids.
- “Running with a sloshing or full stomach isn’t something most runners want to inflict on themselves voluntarily. To prevent this from happening on race day, especially if it’s hot and you need to drink more fluids than you normally would, you need to slowly adapt your body to running with a full stomach.”
- “Once you determine how much and what type of hydration you’ll be consuming during your race, you will then need to decide how you’ll be drinking. Will you use the cups on the course, bring a bottle with you, or have someone hand you something along the route? This is an important step because learning to drink from a cup while running is an entirely different skill than learning to be comfortable while carrying a water bottle.”
- “You should practice your race day nutrition and hydration strategy as often as logistically possible during your workouts and long runs, especially in the last eight weeks leading up to your race.”
- “The truth is, every runner has different and specific nutritional needs for optimal performance. The best ways to find out what works for you are by experimenting through trial and error and making fueling practice a regular part of your marathon-specific workouts. Simulating race-pace scenarios in practice is the best way to do that.” - Ben Rosario, head coach of the Hoka Northern Arizona Elite training group
- “On race morning, drink just enough to satisfy your thirst and don’t drink anything in the last 45 minutes before the gun goes off. Once the race begins, drink as often and as much as your thirst dictates. It’s a bad idea to drink more.”
- “Studies have shown that consuming fluid during race-type efforts does not enhance performance unless the effort lasts longer than about an hour, and in some cases, the threshold is as high as 90 minutes.”
RunnersConnect and the expert they cite agree that determining proper hydration isn’t as easy as some would like to think. Sweat rate and urine color aren’t ideal metrics:
- “Under the conventional and dated model, to figure out how much you sweat, you simply measure how much weight you lost over the course of your run. But scientific research has shown that there are a few problems with this model. First, not all of the weight you’re losing is water! A significant portion is fuel - carbs and fat, burned for energy during the course of your run.”
- “Runners seem to have differing levels of sensitivity to water loss. Some become extremely thirsty after only a pound or two of body weight lost, while others lost up to 8% of their body weight during a race, even when they’re drinking water en route.” - Timothy Noakes, a South African exercise physiologist and medical doctor"
- “While it is true that urine color and output followed the trends we’d expect, neither the color of the urine nor its volume were statistically correlated with the amount of water in the body.”
As you can see from the bullets above, measuring your hydration levels is a science. That’s why we enlisted the help of our own scientist, Mark Kovacs of the Kovacs Institute, to explain the importance of personalized hydration:
“Hydration allows for cellular function to occur at optimal levels and speed of reactions. This means that other aspects of metabolism and cellular function can work as ideally as possible. Hydration is an ongoing and complex process that must consider intake timing, quantity, quality (such as the type of fluids) and all of these variables will be unique to each athlete.”
No matter your goals, you can improve your physical condition to achieve them when your body is properly hydrated. Finding that right balance of hydration and performance isn’t always cut and dry. As a runner, your body has to fight the elements, the pavement and its natural instinct to take a break when it tires. Be smart about your hydration and you can overcome, bettering your time, your speed and your endurance.
Tags: hydrate smarter, hydration, nutrition, running, trago, water