A large percentage of the human body is made up of water. Therefore, it is fair to say that water is an important element of human life. Considering how essential water is to your health, you’d be surprised how many people simply don’t drink water. As a runner, you don’t have that option. When you begin a running program, you need to learn about how hydration helps keep you safe and healthy while you run.
Water’s Function in the Body
The importance of consuming enough water cannot be overstated. Water is used in the body to build muscle tissue as well as to transport nutrients between cells and through the bloodstream. Water is also important in the fatty tissue that insulates nerves, cells, and organs. The fact is, a body cannot live or function properly without water.
The body’s cooling mechanism is sweat. Sweat is released through the pores as a way of cooling off the largest organ in your body – your skin. Sweat released through your skin lowers the body temperature so the internal environment will remain stable during exertion. However, when we lose water and nutrients in sweat in order to cool the body, water and nutrients have to be replaced or we may experience dehydration.
Sources of Hydration
The first source of hydration is water of course. Drink pure water and you can’t go wrong. Now, you don’t have to buy bottled water; just fill your water container with tap water, filtered if you wish. Cold water seems to absorb faster into the system and cools the body better. Place your water bottle in the fridge or freezer the night before your run so it’s ready when you are.
Sports drinks are another source of hydration, but they are also a source of controversy. These beverages have more calories and sugar than water. As a main fluid source, stick with water. However, for replenishing nutrients during and after a long run (45 minutes or more), sports drinks can provide fluid along with electrolytes (potassium, sodium, chloride) and some carbohydrates which are needed to keep your energy up. So, choose sports drinks as only a portion of your hydration and only if you are exerting yourself for more than 45 minutes. And, in case you’re wondering, sports drinks are not healthy for inactive people.
Then there is hydration through fruits and vegetables. Veggies like celery and fruits like watermelon are mostly water. So, even if you aren’t keen on drinking a lot of water, you can increase your hydration by eating these water-rich veggies. Aim for about 20% of your total fluid intake coming from food.
How to Schedule Your Hydration
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water throughout the day instead of all at once before you run. Hydrating your body all day long works better than cramming water into your system, hoping to meet your body’s needs quickly. A stomach full of water sloshing around doesn’t feel good and can make you feel sick when you run.
Try to drink about 96 ounces (about eight 12-ounce glasses) of water a day, with at least two glasses a couple of hours before you run, one glass right before your run, and two glasses after your run. Use this as a guide, but listen to your body and adjust as necessary. Carry water and sports drinks with you if you are running long distance and sip along the way, at least replenishing your fluids every 20 to 30 minutes.
To stay healthy while running, you need to stay hydrated. Keep your body and mind hydrated with plenty of water before, during, and after you run; and all day long!