Updated: Oct 26
BEFORE (activity): Aim to drink 8-16 ounces of water 1-2 hours before a run and 6-8 ounces of water 15 minutes
DURING (activity): Aim to drink 12-24 ounces of water during an hour long run (4-6 ounces every 20 minutes). For hour + long runs, drink 16-30 ounces of water every hour (& sports drink to replace lost electrolytes)
AFTER (activity): Aim to drink 16 ounces of fluids with food (possibly more depending on your sweat rate)
Figure out your typical sweat rate from a run by weighing yourself before and after a run. If you are only losing 1-2% of your body weight, you are properly hydrating yourself before and on the run! Do this in a number of different temperatures and conditions to understand the average amount that you need to stay hydrated
There is no standard hydration recommendation for runners because everyone has different sweat rates, body sizes, and running speeds. Figure out your own personal sweat rate to determine your optimal hydration needs
The easiest way to make sure you’re hydrated is to check the color of your urine, the pee-pee test. Pale yellow is the color to shoot for!
Make sure you are drinking enough water everyday and throughout the day instead of drinking a lot of fluids all at once or just the day before/day of race.
Hydration during exercise is a major factor in your performance. When it’s hot and/or you are working hard, your body wants to keep itself cool. To do that, it produces sweat. The amount that you sweat (how hard your body needs to work to keep you cool) depends on genetics, heat, and your effort level. When you sweat, you are not only losing water, but the electrolytes sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
You begin to feel thirsty when your body has lost fluid (water) from the blood stream to cool itself, which causes the concentration of other components to shift. You brain sends the signal that you are thirsty to encourage you to drink for water to bring the body back in to balance. If you wait until you have a thirst signal, you have already started working towards dehydration. You can see a reduction in performance with as little as a 1% loss of body weight via sweat.
If you enjoy data like I do, you can determine how much fluid you will typically lose during exercise by weighing yourself, nude, prior to 60 minutes of running. Weigh yourself, immediately following, also nude and note the amount of weight lost. For every pound lost in 60 minutes, you need ~16 oz of fluid to replace the loss. You can use this activity in different settings to determine what your typical sweat rate is, and begin to use this as an equation to determine how much fluid you need to replace while running to truly remain hydrated. Some elites will use this strategy, and then tweak their fluids to attempt to have no weight loss during long runs. *Note here that this is purely fluid loss, not physical weight loss. If you are someone who is trigged in any way by the scale, DO NOT use this strategy.
To remain hydrated, you should be taking in fluids at least every 15 minutes on a long run. If you are someone who has a typical sweat loss of 2 lbs in 60 minutes of activity, this equates to 32 ounces, or 8 ounces every 15 minutes. This influx of fluids, in a bolus, can lead to stomach discomfort and nausea. While you can build your body up to handling this, a better strategy would be to sip 2-4 ounces every 7-10 minutes.
Sweat isn’t simply water. It’s also electrolytes, which is why products like NUUN (no calories) and Gatordate (calories from carbohydrates) are so popular. Gatorade, and other calorie-containing sports drinks, can be useful because they contain carbs. The average person needs 30-60 grams of carbs per 60 minutes of running. For runners running longer than 2 hours, that need increases to 60-90 grams per hour later in the run because of depleted energy stores. Not all runners can tolerate multiple gels (which each contain about 25 grams of carbs), so sports drinks can come to the rescue. By alternating sports drinks and water you can get additional carbs, as well as fluids and electrolytes.
To implement this level of hydration, you have to practice. Going from 0 fluid intake to 32 ounces in one run will leave you doubled over with nausea. Instead, increase your intake slowly until you find your optimum replacement level. Your body will get used the fluid volumes over time, requiring you to drink less often as you will need to initially. You also have to figure out how to have those fluids available. Simply Hydration bottles tuck into your sports bras and shorts easily, without being uncomfortable. Handheld bottles can be useful, once you get used to carrying them. I also like to find safe locations to leave bottles. This can include running in loops where you can pick up a bottle from your driveway, asking a friend to set out a water bottle if you run past their house, or knowing where water fountains are.
In the days before a long run or race, don’t run into over hydration issues, either. Use your urine to evaluate if you are adequately hydrated. You urine should be a pale yellow. If it is dark yellow, you need more fluids. If it is completely clear, you are over-hydrated which can lead to nausea on electrolyte imbalance on race day.
Winter is a time where a lot of animals are hibernating. When it comes to runners, however, the winter months are still fair game for getting outside and hitting the roads or trails.
The winter months often bring faster race times and easier training sessions without the sweat. The reduction in sweat can be a bit deceiving, and it’s why there is usually little talk of the importance of hydration when temperatures fall. During the summer, runners are inundated with reminders to carry water and keep an eye out for salt rings on clothes that mean high sweat rates and dehydration. But just because you aren’t a sweaty mess doesn’t mean you aren’t dehydrated.
DEHYDRATION ISN’T ALWAYS LINKED TO SWEAT
When it comes to winter running, cold air keeps runners from noticing they are, in fact, still sweating. So even though you don’t feel — or see — sweat, that doesn’t mean you aren’t losing water your body desperately needs.
“You become dehydrated when you lose more fluid than you drink,” explains triathlon and running coach Heather Blackmon, founder of FITaspire. “In most cases, this is caused in situations of excessive sweating; however, you can also become dehydrated due to not drinking enough water, regardless of exercise or time of year.”
For runners who opt to head indoors, it’s important to remember most gyms blast the heat during the winter. This will definitely have an effect on your body and mess with your sweat rate, as well. “If you are working out inside, remember that heat will likely be running, sucking the moisture from the air and also keeping the temperature a particular temperature much higher than that outside,” notes Susie Lemmer, a running coach and trainer at Coach Suz Training. “Your skin is going to take a real beating — as are you — from being inside in heated air, which is nearly always super dry. Proper hydration protects your muscles and digestive processes from breaking down.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF HYDRATION DURING WINTER MONTHS
It may seem odd that you would need more water in the winter months to stay hydrated than in the summer, however, the air and temperatures affect your body in different ways.
“During colder months, the air is drier and your body has to work a bit harder to warm the air and add humidity,” shares Blackmon. “That means you actually need more water than in warmer, humid months. You may not feel as thirsty when you’re colder, but don’t skip the water.”
Even if you aren’t feeling thirsty, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Researchers discovered that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That will absolutely affect your workout. If you start a workout in a dehydrated state, it will make it even harder to achieve a proper level of hydration, even while constantly sipping water throughout a run.
“A very simple place to start is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces each day as a baseline,” adds Blackmon. “For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, then you should aim for 70 ounces of water per day. If you exercise, you will want to drink additional water.”
Blackmon says if you are doing a run or workout less than an hour in length, water should be enough to keep you hydrated. For anything longer than that, however, you will want to add electrolytes, regardless of how much you are sweating.
AN EASY WAY TO TRACK HYDRATION
In the summer months runners are often told to keep an eye on our clothes for a ring of salt that indicates just how much you sweat and how much fluid you lose. In the winter months, however, this isn’t usually as visible as your body is exposed to the cold air and covered by multiple layers. In this case, “the pee test” is the easiest way to keep an eye on your hydration.
“This test is really just examining the color of your urine,” explains Lemmer. “Aim for a watered-down lemonade color, not tea (in any way, shape or form). Also, are you even urinating at all? Think of a normal day of hydration; if you are urinating less than that, you need to reach for some water.”
It really is as simple as it sounds. You should be aware of the color of your urine throughout the day, as suggested, and not just before or after a run. The winter months often lead to drinking less water in general, so consider this your gentle reminder to get your water in. In the morning your urine will be a bit more yellow than it is throughout the day due to the effects of dehydration during the night, so starting off your day with a big glass of water is a great habit.
“Sweating or not, you can absolutely become dehydrated,” reminds Lemmer. “You are still raising your body temperature during a run, and even though you might be out in the cold, often the dry air will keep you from feeling like you are sweating.”
Sponsorship Coordinator | HDEC
E N D U R E S T R O N G !