Keeping hydrated (i.e. drinking enough water) will improve your running. Did you know that approximately 82% of your blood volume consists of water? Consequently if you are exercising it is important that you replace the water you lose through sweating so that you maintain your blood volume. When your blood volume is reduced, your cardiovascular system becomes less efficient at transporting oxygen to your muscles. This leads to reduced aerobic capacity.
In other words: the more dehydrated you get, the worse your running performance.
If you are running for less than an hour, then drinking water is a low cost, low calorie option. Your stored carbohydrates and electrolytes are sufficient for anything up to an hour. For longer runs, use a sports drink. These contain carbohydrates in low concentration, which enable your body to absorb the fluids more easily whilst still providing you with energy.
The early signs of dehydration are feeling thirsty, dry mouth, and sticky saliva, and the need to urinate less frequently, less urine output and dark yellow urine. You may also experience muscle weakness and headaches. At the extreme end of the scale is severe dehydration – this can make you feel dizzy, lacking in energy or even make you vomit.
So how much water do you need to stay well hydrated? The easiest way to know if you are at peak hydration is to check the colour of your urine. Contrary to popular belief, urine is not yellow. A healthy hydrated person’s urine is virtually colourless or vey, very pale yellow. That’s not to say that you should take on massive amounts of water in a single go.
On the other hand, drinking too much water too quickly can be dangerous as well. It is case of having a ‘little and often’. Gulping down gallons can cause hyponatremia, which is a rare but potentially fatal condition caused by taking in too much water and too little salt. The best advice is to listen to you body: when taking on water while you are running, stop drinking if you hear or feel water sloshing around your stomach, you start to cramp or feel like vomiting.
You can easily be more precise about your water intake to really help optimise your hydration levels, and therefore your performance levels. Weigh yourself before and after your run. For every 0.5 kg lost replace it with 500 ml of water. You should also drink about 500ml of water in the two hours before you go running. While during your work out you should aim to drink approximately 300 ml over the course of 15 minutes, every 15 minutes.
Although it is important to drink fluids little and often whilst you are running, the best way to maintain hydration levels is to remember to drink water throughout your day. Many people are reluctant to drink often because they think that it will increase their need to go to the toilet. However this is normally just the initial effect of increasing hydration levels; once your body gets used to its new well-hydrated status, this should settle down.
Here are a few tips to help you remember to drink water regularly so you can go for your Personal Best the next time you head out for a run.
1. Log your intake – This can be as simple as a little piece of paper on the fridge, or a page in your day planner. However, in today’s hi-tech world, as the saying goes: “there is an app for that!” Water your body, and Plant Nanny are examples of water tracking apps available on both android and iOS. Logging your water intake will help you keep track of how much water you drink in any given day. Setting yourself goals is a way to motivate yourself to drink more. Especially if you reward yourself when you achieve them.
2. Add flavour with Lemon Juice – A squeeze of lemon juice adds a little flavour to your water, without unnecessary calories. It’s also pretty refreshing!
3. Include sparkling mineral water – Carbonated water has no calories, no dissolved sugar, no alcohol, and no caffeine. It hydrates just like plain water does, and its distinctive flavour will add some variety to your water intake.
4. Drink when you feel hungry – Many people are so out of tune with their bodies that they mistakenly feel hungry when they are actually thirsty. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first.
5. Have water to go! Carry a bottle of water with you where ever you go so that you have a drink readily available. It doesn’t have to be a large bottle either, just something convenient to sip from regularly.
6. Vary the temperature – Try hot water or herbal tea without sugar as an alternative to water, especially in colder weather. Herb teas have no caffeine and, providing you don’t add sugar, no calories either!
As simple as it seems, water – one of nature’s most taken-for-granted elements - is also one of your best training enhancers. So drink more water and improve your running performance.