8 Things you Need to Know About Hydration

Hydration is a really important part of being a runner. It's essential to keep hydrated for a number of reasons, not just to avoid the risk of cramps or dehydration but also so your body can function optimally when running.

What follows is an 8-point guide to everything you need to know about hydration, from why it matters and how much you need, right down to what happens if you don't drink enough.

More than half of your body is made up of water

Did you know that more than half of your body is made up of water? In fact, you're made up of 60% water, with every cell in your body requiring a certain level of hydration to function correctly. 8 Things you Need to Know About Hydration

By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated

When your body is low on water, it will send signals to the brain indicating thirst. However, by the time that these signals have been sent, your body has likely started to shut down its non-essential functions.

Even mild dehydration can lead to tiredness and headaches which can make any run much more difficult.

How much should you drink each day?

The easiest method to stay hydrated is to drink often and gradually. The Eatwell Guide, which is published in the UK, recommends that you drink 6-8 glasses of water daily to compensate for normal water loss - approximately 1.2 to 1.5 liters per day. [3]

All types of water, low-fat milk, and sugar-free beverages, including tea and coffee, are included in the count.

You gain and lose around two and a half litres of water a day

This may seem a lot but it is actually the amount of water that the average person gains and loses on a daily basis.

This is because your body can absorb water from food - Not all foods contain as much water as you might think. For example, meat contains around 50% moisture, bread contains up to 70%, eggs 65%, and vegetables 80%. Carrots are almost 90% water!

Your brain is heavily made up of water

Your brain is made up of approximately 75% water, so staying hydrated can help to keep your brain functioning properly.

A loss of just 1-2% in your body's fluid levels can affect how you feel. When you're dehydrated, you might feel tired and sluggish - thirst is the first sign that your body needs more water before you experience any other symptoms.

Staying well hydrated will provide a number of benefits for runners including improved circulation which makes running easier; reduced muscle fatigue, and it will ensure that all the muscles in the body are working efficiently.

Lack of fluid can lead to heatstroke

Dehydration can cause heatstroke (hyperthermia), which occurs when the body becomes unable to cool itself down.

This can happen when you are exercising, particularly if you are exercising in high temperatures or humidity. Heatstroke can be fatal so the best advice is to stay well hydrated throughout your run.

Dehydration is a Big Factor

Dehydration makes you feel exhausted, which stops you from performing at your best. It also affects your ability to concentrate, making it more difficult to perform well mentally.

Dehydration can make you cramp during your run

When the body is deprived of water, muscle cramps are often the first sign that you need to start drinking.

Runners normally suffer from calf or foot cramps during their runs - this is because the muscles are dehydrated and need an increased supply of fluids to function properly.

The number of electrolytes in sports drinks isn't enough for runners

Electrolytes are necessary for optimal hydration but most people already get enough electrolytes without taking additional supplements - especially runners.

The idea behind many sports drinks is that they help give energy to muscles, but most are just loaded with sugar.

Water is always the best source of hydration

Although sports drinks can help provide your body with certain electrolytes or sugars it may need, water is ALWAYS the best option for optimal hydration.

Keeping well hydrated will help ensure that all the cells in the body are functioning properly, giving your body its optimum level of performance.

It's also essential for helping you get through long runs without experiencing muscle fatigue or cramps which could impair performance.

Your daily intake should be 2.5 litres of water for men and 2.0 litres of water for women

For men, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily intake of 2.5 liters of water, while for women it is 2.0 litres. [2]

If you're not sure whether or not you're dehydrated, one of the most reliable signs is how often you have to go to the toilet and the colour of your urine, which should be pale yellow.

If you don't have to go as frequently as normal but your urine is dark in color, chances are that you're dehydrated.

Dehydration can cause headaches, tiredness, and lethargy. A dry mouth or lip may be a symptom of exercise when you have a headache. However, keep in mind that certain foods, such as beetroot, might also alter the colour of your urine!

Add lemon juice to your glass of water for a refreshing taste

Oftentimes, people don't drink water because they find it boring. If that's the case for you, just add some lemon juice to your glass of water to give it a more refreshing taste!

Instead of cutting up a lemon each time, why not produce a batch of lemon water to last you all week?

Try different types of drinks like tea and flavoured seltzers to stay hydrated

Tea and flavoured seltzers might be a good alternative for your daily hydration routine. Tea has a number of health benefits and it's easy to add some fruit seltzers for flavouring.

Here is an easy recipe:

  • Place 2 liters of water in a pitcher with the juice of 5 lemons.
  • It is best if the lemons are stored overnight before squeezing them for maximum flavor release.
  • Allow it to sit for 2-3 hours, then serve over ice!
  • Or place it in a water bottle and take it to go!

This will keep you well hydrated during your run and awake throughout the day - now that's efficiency at its finest!

Fruit & Veggies Have a High Water Content

Did you know that fruit and vegetables are almost 90% water? It might surprise you, but you're consuming a lot of water when you eat your favorite fruits or veggies.

Keep in mind that drinks with caffeine or alcohol will likely increase your need to urinate more often than usual - which means that even though these dehydrating substances can help trigger thirst, they're not the best options for staying well hydrated. Instead, stick to drinking plenty of fluids that contain no caffeine or alcohol so that you can keep yourself properly hydrated.

Eat less processed foods since they generally have less water content than fresh food.

This means that you need to drink more water when exercising. Drinking just half a litre of water can lead to dehydration.

If you are running in cold weather, it's recommended that you drink about one liter of water before and during the workout.

Pre-hydration matters

This is not something people often think of, but it can make a huge difference in your performance.

This means that you should aim to drink enough water before exercising so that you don't lose more fluid than you want or need to during the exercise session.

You should also drink about half a liter of water every 15 minutes during an intense workout [1] (one hour or less). And if your goal is to achieve maximum performance, remember that dehydration can reduce physical and mental capacity by as much as 20%! 

Running long distances without proper hydration will have negative impacts on performance which may affect the runner's overall experience negatively.

If runners want to perform at their best, they will need to make sure that they are well hydrated by consuming the right amounts of water every day.

Water is always the best source of hydration since it provides all the benefits without any negative side effects - unlike sports drinks which may actually have a negative impact on performance.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it.

It's super important to keep hydrated anyway. However, if you're doing any type of sports or fitness, then it's even more important to keep hydrated!

It's easy to neglect to keep yourself well hydrated, but it will certainly lead to poor performance and affect your overall experience negatively.

So just remember: drink lots of water and enjoy the benefits that come with staying properly hydrated!

Now get out there and be active - you'll feel better for it in more ways than one!

Do you have any other tricks for staying well hydrated? Let us know in the comments below!

References:

[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6682880

[2] www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1459

[3] www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/healthy-living/healthy-eating/healthy-eating-toolkit/eatwell-plate

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