Hydration can be a polarizing topic, not just with runners, or the workout community, but the entire population. We hear things like 8 cups a day, but that doesn’t make sense since everyone is different. You may have heard that you should start drinking when you are thirsty, but that may be too late. What about drinking constantly? That’s also probably not the healthiest option.
It’s just water! When did it become so complicated? Well not anymore!
The RunCharlotte Team was able to sit down with Dr. Christopher Felton from Novant Health to pick his brain about how we should hydrate, and maybe take some of the mystery out of one of the most important aspects of healthy living!
Who is Dr. Chris Felton?
Dr. Chris Felton is a Novant Health physician with specialties in Family Medicine and Family Sports Medicine. He’s been practicing for more than 10 years, exercises regularly, and is a fan of HIIT workouts. You might also see him at the races, where he toes the line with his son at the Let Me Run 5k events.
Now, let’s get into this hydration thing!
How much water should the average person drink on an ordinary day?
According to the Institute of Medicine, on average 3.7 liters for men, and 2.7 liters for women. They go on to say that about 3L (13 cups) for men and 2 liters for women (9 cups), should be from liquids. The other amount can be from water intake through foods, like fruits and vegetables. So be sure if you aren’t eating foods with high water content that you drink more to compensate.
How much MORE water do runners require?
It all depends! Water intake for runners can be dependent on the climate, the exercise duration, and the exercise intensity, and thus can vary from person to person. However, some general tips would include:
- 2-4 hours before exercise you should already be thinking about hydrating for your run. Consider about 500mL (17 fluid oz) of water or sport beverage. This will allow your body enough time to optimize hydration and get rid of any excess water before your workout.
- Drink fluids during exercise when thirsty and at a rate that does not fill up your stomach. Overall, runners want to avoid losing more than 2% of body weight in a single exercise bout. This is obviously hard to gauge mid run, but drinking the second you become thirsty should work as a good rule of thumb.
- After exercise, your body should let you know to eat and drink to replace lost water and calories. However, excessive dehydration can be replenished by consuming 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
- Don’t forget that adding salty foods to meals or snacks will help your body retain fluid and replace electrolytes lost as well.
Can you bank hydration, or does any “extra” water we drink just end up being passed through our system?
It might not be a great idea. Hyper hydration is discouraged, as this only increases the need for runners to urinate during competition or exercise. It also has not been shown to provide greater performance advantage over maintaining balanced hydration. So there isn’t any benefit to that fourth Gatorade unless you really need it.
If feeling thirsty is really a sign that we’re already dehydrating, what other signs should we look for?
Signs of dehydration can include muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, decreased performance, or dizziness. More severe signs include dry mouth, urinating less, darker urine, confusion, and lethargy. The goal is to either catch dehydration very early or not experience it at all by using your training runs to practice hydration.
We see a LOT of people with those 3 gallon water jugs. Is that necessary? Should we be drinking that much? Is that too much water?
Drinking a total of 3 gallons of water per day is not necessary. (We know we just lost a few readers.) This far exceeds the recommended average intake. However, intake is also dependent on your exercise duration, intensity, and environmental conditions. If you are exercising more and sweating more, then your water replacement needs can be greater. But for the average person, no you don’t need that much water.
Any tips on making sure we get enough water?
- Drink when you’re thirsty and with meals
- Utilize other fluid options to diversify, including milk, tea, broth
- Avoid sodas and alcohol, as these can cause more urination, plus adds extra calories to your meals
- Utilize fruits and vegetables in your diet. This increases water intake too!
- Add flavor to your water, like lemon or lime juice to make it more palatable.
- Keep a water bottle with you throughout your day.
Phew, is anyone else getting thirsty? Time to hydrate! Now you have the knowledge to stay well hydrated all day so that you can perform to the best of your ability in your training runs and races. We can’t thank Dr. Felton enough for taking the time to talk to us about hydration and how to make sure we don’t under or over do it. Hopefully you feel like a perfectly hydrated future has been demystified and is now well within your reach. If not maybe go back and write some of Dr. Felton’s tips down so you can try them on your next training run.