Hydration for Runners: Using H2O to Optimize Your Performance

This blog post is brought to you by Will Benitez, RunDoyen’s professional Nutritionist who focuses on helping runners optimize their performance and health through their diet. Click here to contact Will or visit his profile page to learn more about how he can help you > RunDoyen.com/Will

Why hydration matters

Water is basically the most powerful natural performance enhancer, optimizing water intake can do wonders for your athletic performance. For almost everybody, and especially runners, hydration is the most important nutrition area to get right. It’s been said that dehydration can take down the greatest of athletes, and it’s true. If your body is not hydrated, it simply cannot perform at its greatest potential.

During exercise, heat is produced by the muscles, and to keep body temperature low, the body will start to sweat. If the body is already dehydrated, then this process isn’t efficient, and the body will stay warmer longer, hindering performance. Even if you are well hydrated, the water that is being lost from exercise should be replaced during and after training sessions.

Additionally, water is also necessary for transporting nutrients throughout the body, which is important for maintaining proper energy levels, improving recovery from training, and for generally optimizing health. Water also helps lubricate the joints which is helpful for reducing injury risk.

How do you know if you’re dehydrated?

A simple way to determine if you’re hydrated is to pay attention to the color of your urine. If your urine is colorless or pale yellow in color, you are probably well hydrated. Aside from the morning—when urine is more concentrated—if your urine is a darker yellow, then that is a common sign of dehydration. But don’t just go by the color of your urine. In a dehydrated state, the following symptoms may be experienced:

  • tiredness/low energy
  • fatigue (a more chronic level tiredness)
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps
  • dry mouth
  • lack of sweating
  • nausea
  • fast heartbeat

And if you’re consistently training and trying to perform while dehydrated, not only will you not be training or recovering optimally, but injury risk also increases, and general wellness can be diminished.

What counts for hydrating?

Water is what you want to emphasize for your hydrating needs. While there is certainly water in other foods and beverages, especially fruits and vegetables, those foods shouldn’t be the only place you get your water. Also, sports drinks, iced teas, and other drinks do provide water, but good old H2O satisfies your needs without the sometimes-unnecessary extra additives such as sugar, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.

Sports drinks do have their place, however, and may serve as possible substitutes for water soon before and during training. Adding an electrolyte supplement to your water could also provide some extra energy while you’re hydrating, by way of important nutrients and some calories.

Rule of thumb

My rule of thumb for minimum hydration needs is to drink half your body weight in ounces. That means that if a person is 120lbs, their minimum intake should be 60oz of water per day.

Runners, however, should definitely be drinking more than a minimal amount of water. I encourage runners to add an additional 10oz to their minimum. And if you’re training in the heat or sweat a lot, consider adding an additional 10oz of water per day.

So, if that same person who weighs 120lbs were a runner training in the summer, they would have a minimum water intake of 80oz per day. Remember that this new number is still just your minimum intake of water that you would aim to drink per day; your body would very likely thrive with even more.

If you think you are meeting your hydration needs, but are occasionally experiencing some symptoms of dehydration, consider reaching out to your medical provider or a nutritionist for professional assessment.

Want to learn more?

Click here to contact Will or visit his profile page to learn more about how he can help you > RunDoyen.com/Will

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