What Should Runners Drink – A Guide To Athletic Hydration
If you’re a runner, then you know that hydration is a key part of your nutrition plan. So what should runners drink?
What you drink really depends on what you are doing and when you will be it.
For example, if you are planning on going for a 10 mile training run, guzzling a gallon of water probably isn’t in your best interests. You’re not a camel, don’t drink like one.
Stephanie Coburn, USA Triathalon Coach has some great tips about what you should be drinking as a runner.
Water: The obvious choice
Before we go into anything else, we need to discuss the elephant in the room.
Water. It's cool. It's clear. It's calorie free.
Water is the definitely the obvious answer to all things hydration. Water is crucial for the proper function of your body and makes up about 60% of your total body weight.
Not only does water facilitate your body's natural cooling mechanisms; it aids in digestion, waste removal, cell growth, and virtually every other bodily function.
But how much water do you really need?
According to Runner’s World, the old saying that you should drink 8 glasses of water per day is woefully out of date. It has been replaced by a more accurate calculation based on body weight and gender.
Males: Body weight (lbs) x 0.35 = Water needs (oz)
Females: Body weight (lbs) x 0.31 = Water needs (oz)
For example, if a 150 lb man wanted to calculate his water needs, he would take his weight (150) times 0.35 and he would come up with 52.5 oz of water per day.
If you are planning on heading out for a run, you will need to plan on drinking more. Stephanie recommends drinking about 20 ounces of water 30-45 minutes before you leave.
You want to make sure that while you drink plenty of water, don't drink too much. If you can feel water sloshing around in your belly, your body has enough fluids at that point. Over-hydration can have serious consequences.
During your run, make sure that you are replenishing your fluids as you go along. There are some great products out there for carrying liquids along with you.
If you are only going on a short run, you may not need to carry water with you. In this case, make sure you re-hydrate after your run. Stephanie suggests following the 40 for 40 rule. 40 oz for 40 minutes of running.
Sports drinks get a bad rap, some of them for good reason. Many are high in sugar and sodium.
In and of themselves, sugar and sodium can be good for the body in regulated quantities. But too much of either is not a good thing.
That being said, consuming a thoughtfully selected sports drink during and after running can do you a lot of good.
When you run, your body depletes its electrolytes. If you are going on a long run, and even after your run, it is important that you continuously replenish your supply of electrolytes. Sports drinks like Gatorade are specifically marketed to fulfill this purpose.
Our friends over at Hammer Nutrition give a great description of what electrolytes are and why they are important.
"Electrolytes are chemicals that form electrically charged particles (ions) in body fluids. These ions carry the electrical energy necessary for many functions, including muscle contractions and transmission of nerve impulses. Many bodily functions depend on electrolytes; optimal performance requires a consistent and adequate supply of these important nutrients."
Apart from electrolytes, sports drinks also help replace sodium lost through sweat and provide you with much needed calories. This is especially important when running for extended distances or in hot weather.
Your need to consume calories so you body has sufficient energy to function properly. Drinking sports drinks during your longer runs will help keep the juices flowing so you don't hit a wall 5 miles from home.
As I stated previously, not all products labeled as "sport drinks" are good for you. Stephanie gave a few suggestions to try out.
- Gu Roctane
- PowerBar Preform
That is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. It's a good idea to try different things and figure out what agrees with your body.
Ultimately, you need to listen to your body to understand your hydration needs.
If you are feeling thirsty, you should probably drink something. If you are feeling weak and light headed, grab an energy drink and get some calories.
Your body is pretty smart. It will tell you what it needs.