If you run, you sweat. If you run in the summer, you sweat a lot. And you already know you need to drink water or sports drinks to recover after your run. But hydration should actually be a part of your whole routine, from pre-run prep to post-run recovery.
Over half of your body weight is water and every part of your body, from the smallest cells to the largest systems, depends on water to keep it functioning. Everything we do all day depletes our stores of water, but of course strenuous exercise like running depletes it more quickly. Studies have shown that a loss of just 2% of your body weight in water through sweating causes a drop in blood volume, which means the heart has to work harder to circulate blood. Hydration for runners is also critical because water keeps electrolytes in balance which, among other things, helps maintain nerve impulses and muscle function.
Studies have shown that runners who start out dehydrated run more slowly than their hydrated competitors. Why? When you’re dehydrated, your body has to work harder to pump blood and keep up with the demands of your workout.
When you are hydrating pre-run, consider a colder beverage which lowers your body temperature and also makes you feel like you are putting out less effort (because you don’t feel as hot). If you’re running a long distance, bring along a partially-frozen drink that melts along the way. Consider making yourself a sports drink slushy before you head out.
If you’re running for a long time (45-60 minutes or more) you also need to hydrate during your run. You can set a schedule for yourself (setting a timer on your watch, for example) to take a drink every 15 minutes or so, or it’s also OK to just drink when you feel thirsty. You don’t want to over-hydrate or have a lot of water sloshing in your belly while you run.
In your post-run recovery, the purpose of hydration is to replace the fluids you have lost and return to equilibrium. Water and sports drinks are of course helpful here, but foods can also be a useful way to rehydrate, too. Fruits and veggies that hold water (watermelon, lettuce) can supplement your liquid intake. You’ll want to consume enough fluid that you need to use the bathroom about 60-90 minutes after your run.
Make hydration a standard part of your overall fitness nutrition plan, and it can have a measurable impact on your performance, recovery and overall wellness, even when you’re not on the run.