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An Expert's Guide to Hydration

Some runners really struggle to take on fluids when they run; the swooshing feeling in our stomachs can be uncomfortable, carrying a bottle can weigh us down and getting your sips right, so you don’t choke, is an art form!

If you struggle to drink on the move, it’s crucial to develop a plan, especially over longer distances. Otherwise you may find yourself in the St John’s Ambulance tent on a drip at the end of a race on a hot day.

Whereas most people learn to drink during races, it’s better to learn in training. Treadmill running is probably the easiest way of doing this, as your drink is close to hand. It’s important to work out how much you need to reduce speed to take on your drink.

Try different strategies to get better at drinking during running. Initially you may find you have to slow to just above walking pace for 60 seconds while you drink, but gradually you’ll find you can drink the same volume in 30 seconds. In longer events its worth taking a drink at each feeding station, even if it’s only a slurp.

How to stay hydrated while runningRehydrating at a water station. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Working Out Your Hydration Needs
We all lose a different amount of sweat, yet many of us don’t realise how much. You can work out how much fluid you need to take on by finding out how much weight you lose when you run. Just weigh yourself before and after a race. One pound of weight loss should equal approximately one pint of fluid intake.

Whilst one runner could lose one kilogram an hour due to sweat loss, another may not even lose 500 grams in the same time period. As well as this differentiation, some people are more salty sweaters with elevated electrolyte loss. If you don't ensure that you replace sodium, as well as water, you can suffer from hyponatraemia, an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by lowered sodium levels in the blood. If you see salty deposits on your black Lycra, it could be a sign of excessive salty sweating.

How to stay hydrated while runningRehydration after exercise can only be achieved if the electrolytes lost in sweat, as well as the lost water, are replaced.

Facing The Consequences
The human body is made up of around 65-70 percent water. Any significant loss of body water, such as when you sweat during a race, causes multiple physiological and psychological problems. If you manage to make it to the finish line but fail to replace any sweat losses incurred, you may experience headaches, confusion, reduced reaction time and changes in mood in the hours post-race. Saving your celebratory beer until the day after a marathon would be a good idea, despite the temptation.

How to Stay Hydrated While RunningPhoto Credit: Unsplash - Lucas Sankey

Isotonic Drinks
Another great tool in the fight against dehydration is using an isotonic drink regularly. It is important that you replace the sodium and potassium you lose through sweat, so your drink needs to include electrolyte levels similar to the levels you lose. Try different brands to find one that your stomach can tolerate, and if you really hate carrying a water bottle on longer runs, stash them on your route before you head out.

If you want to perform at your best then getting your hydration right is essential, especially in the summer months. Make sure you are hydrated the day before your race (check that your pee is straw coloured, and not darker) and sip from a water bottle in the few hours before the start.

How To Stay Hydrated While Running

Tina Chantrey

Award-Winning Author

Tina  is contributing editor at Women’s Running magazine and  is the author of The Divorce Survival Guide: how running turned my life around and the runner shewhodaresruns. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Strava @shewhodaresruns