We’ve all done it, especially when we were young runners. We stepped out the door into sweltering 90+ degree heat and humidity thick as a blanket, and we didn’t miss a beat. We took off, worked our way into a sprint and spontaneously decided to push a little further than usual. It just felt good to test ourself.
Until we were suddenly gripped by a crippling nausea and felt like we were going to faint. We were miles from home and knew we couldn’t make it back in this condition. So we sat under a tree to rest and cool off. And then breakfast came up. A truly terrible way to start the day.
Who hasn’t suffered the summer double whammy of heat stress and dehydration at least once in their running life? It’s not exactly a badge of courage, in fact it’s quite the opposite and can be downright dangerous, landing the runner in a hospital hooked up to an IV drip for a few hours or more.
Every athlete has unique hydration needs. Some can go for hours in brutal, jungle-hot weather, others… not so much. But one thing is certain – we all need plenty of water.
Hydration guidelines for runners
It’s important that we are well hydrated before our run. And that process starts hours before we step out the door in our shorts and Asics. The American College Of Sports Medicine recommends that you drink 1 ounce of water for every ten pounds of body weight four hours before running. If you tend to perspire heavily, you should drink an additional 0.6 ounce per ten pounds of body weight 2 hours before you run.
Hydration Formula for 200 pound runner
200 pounds = (1 oz x 20) = 20 ounces four hours before run
Adjustment for heavy sweating = (0.6 oz x 20) = additional 12 ounces two hours before run
Total hydration = 32 ounces (1 quart)
+ Bathroom appearances
But when we sweat, we lose more than water, also salt and certain electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Loss of these electrolytes through sweat is a very individual thing – some athletes lose a lot, some a little, depending on how much one perspires. If you’re a heavy sweater on a long, hot run, it’s wise to carry an additional source of electrolytes with you, like Gatorlytes, Pedialite, or Salt Stick. Maintaining these minerals will reduce fatigue, muscle cramping, and help your body cool itself (thermoregulatory response).
How do you know if you’re properly hydrated? Note the color and volume of your urine. Dark colored urine in small amounts is an indication that you don’t have enough water in your system and is a strong message that you need to increase your hydration schedule.