Hydration doesn’t always mean water, Deepthi Velkur explores all your options for hydration during running.
Staying hydrated during your runs is a critical element to a successful run – less so in a 5k, way more so in a marathon. How much hydration you need during a run depends on factors such as – age, gender, temperature, intensity, and distance.
Especially on hot and humid summer days, hydrating during your long run is of the utmost importance. As you are aware, any form of exercise leads to sweating and the more you sweat, your blood volume decreases further making your heart work harder than usual to supply the required oxygen to your working muscles.
It is important to hydrate yourself to reduce the negative effects of dehydration, but pay attention to what you should be drinking, how much and how frequently? At first, avoid overhydration – drinking more than what is required. Overhydration may lead to gastrointestinal distress or in extreme cases a condition called hyponatremia.
Secondly, drinking to offset sweating serves no purpose when it comes to boosting your performance or regulating body temperature versus drinking according to your thirst.
Dehydration kicks in only for runs longer than 90 minutes and the amount of hydration required depends on each individual as the sweat rate varies. Keeping sufficient reserves of palatable drinks accessible to you during your runs and drinking only when you feel thirsty optimizes your overall performance.
Here are some simple and most convenient on-the-go options to fuel your runs:
Sports Drinks: On very hot days, when you tend to sweat much more, just drinking plain water might not be sufficient and you might require a beverage which contains electrolytes and carbohydrates especially potassium and sodium. Sports drinks give you a blend of carbs which are easy and quick fueling options that instantly boost your energy and keeps you well hydrated. Drink two 236ml(8oz) every one hour to pump in a minimum of 30 grams of carbohydrate.
Energy Gels: They are the most popular on-the-go fuel source amongst runners. The energy gels are the best source of fast-acting carbohydrates as they are easily absorbed by the body to give you the instant boost of energy. Using one every 30-40 mins into your run works wonders and opt for gels that have 25-30g of carbs and 50g sodium. You can also pick gels that contain caffeine along with carbs. Most importantly, it is essential to consume water (avoid sports drink) after having your gel.
Bite-size chews give you that punch of energy and pack in the same amount of carbs found in gels and sports drinks. Drinking water is a must each time you pop one in your mouth to avoid the risk of choking.
Here are some organic options if you want to avoid artificial drinks :
Coconut water: This natural drink contains 9g of carb and plenty of potassium more than 20times that of a sports drink. Coconut water with a pinch of sea salt gives you the sodium you need to stay hydrated.
Orange Juice: Drinking citrus juices provide the required potassium and mixing it with water helps to dilute the juice to prevent stomach cramps. One portion of orange juice with one part water and a pinch of salt will do the trick.
Honey: It contains simple sugars like glucose and fructose which are also found in sports drinks. These sugars enter the bloodstream quickly giving you the sudden burst of energy. Try the honey packets or straws for a mess-free snack.
Watermelon: A juicy watermelon provides you with a refreshing feeling. It contains 11g of carbs and a bit of potassium. Sprinkle some sea salt to avoid the fruit from getting mushy and pre-freeze it.
Drinking 250ml of water every 15 minutes during the run along with the above options is recommended. Practice your hydration plan well before race day, and learn to trust it.
In conclusion, do not over-complicate your plan, keep it simple: “Drink when you are thirsty”.