Everyone knows that you need to stay well hydrated when you run but it takes a while to get into the habit. There can be lots of triggers for thirst – salty or sweet foods, for example – but it’s often a fair indicator that you need to take on more fluids. It’s horrible running when you’re not properly hydrated so you need to get yourself to the point where you’re never (or at least hardly ever) thirsty. Or, to put it another way, you need to be properly hydrated all day, every day. For most of us, this involves a small change of habit and a quite lot of liquid. You should drink about 1.5 litres a day, according the NHS – we actually need more fluids but the body recovers quite a lot from food. In the USA, the 8×8 principle is generally applied – at least 8 x 8oz glasses of water a day should keep your fluid levels healthily topped up.
The amount you need depends on your size and weight but, as a general principle, you’re better to drink a bit too much and pee out the excess than too little and suffer the consequences. We’re so used to drinking too little, or drinking diuretics like tea, coffee and coke, that most of us are under- rather than over-hydrated much of the time anyway. Things are different when you’re actually running (see below) but drinking more fluids is a good habit to get into.
In my little world, this involves always having a drink to hand – and I mean always. A bottle of tap water*, a vitamin drink, a herb tea, a glass of barley water (if it’s good enough for Wimbledon, it’s good enough for me) – anything to sip on and keep my fluid levels topped up works just fine for me.
For running and races, you sometimes need a bit more help, though there are plenty who run half marathons with no top ups at all. They’re probably pretty fast runners though; if you’re running for more than 90 minutes, you need to start replacing lost electrolytes (lost through sweat, obviously, not just dropped or mislaid). If you don’t replace them, you can get muscle cramps and fatigue PLUS, somewhat paradoxically perhaps, you can get over-hydrated (Hyponatremia), a fall in sodium levels in the blood – because you haven’t replaced your electrolytes… ‘S easy, innit?
You can use sports drinks and gels such as Gatorade, Lucozade or Powerade (basically anything with ‘ade’ in the name, it seems!) Or if you don’t fancy those, you can make your own. There are loads of easy recipes online, like these from Fitday. Coconut water is another hot favourite – with me, at least. It’s delish.It’s up to you what you choose. The only thing that really matters is to hydrate (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…)
*Don’t let me get started on bottled water – seems the height of insanity to me to bottle water and ship it around the planet at great financial and environmental cost. And don’t even mention the shocking prices they charge for it. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where tap water is clean and safe, make the most of it!