We're tackling some serious business here at The Happy Runner: Hydration. Since I'm no expert (hydration is actually something I really need help with), I consider myself very fortunate to have an actual expert who was willing and able to write on the subject. So, today, I bring you a guest post!
Our guest poster is Dr. Susan Kleiner, president of High Performance Nutrition, an authority on eating for strength, the author of several books (including Power Eating: 3rd. edition and The Good Mood Diet: Feel Great While You Lose Weight), and the nutritionist who worked on the development of the new Solixir beverages. You can learn more about Dr. Kleiner by visiting her web site.
There are so many things to think about when you want to run well: training, flexibility, diet, rest, mental focus and fortitude. Of all the questions that I’m asked about how to improve running performance, the most frequent is, “What is the single most important thing that I should focus on to enhance my running?” That answer is pretty easy: focus on hydration.Thank you, Dr. Kleiner! I think my big problem is that I don't hydrate well enough before I exercise. I need to get better about drinking all day long. I don't think just drinking black coffee all morning is really cutting it!
Of all the things that affect performance, both physical and mental, hydration has the most immediate and powerful effect. Everything else follows. Staying well-hydrated is more than just drinking enough during training and competition, it’s drinking and eating well all the time, with the goal of limiting your level of dehydration at all times, and especially during a race. Once you dehydrate out on the road or trail, you won’t fully rehydrate until 24 to 48 hours after the event is over. Going into an event well-hydrated is essential, and limiting the level of dehydration during your event is the goal.
Not only is drinking important, but so is eating. Fruits and vegetables are full of water and rich in electrolytes essential for maintaining water balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Diets abundant in fruits and vegetables typically contribute about 4 cups of fluid to your diet every day.
If you run long distances, don’t be afraid of having some salt in your diet. On warm days when you sweat more than usual, it’s important to have enough sodium in your system. While you don’t want to go overboard, it’s a good idea to have a moderate amount of salt in your diet on those days. If you are already eating foods high in salt like fast foods, processed foods, and lots of snack foods, then you should probably think about replacing some of those with more natural, whole foods. If you are already eating a diet that is low in processed and packaged foods, then adding some pretzels and baked chips, salting your vegetables, and drinking a regular V-8 juice can add just the right amount of sodium to keep your fluids in balance out on the trail or track.
It is particularly important to be drinking, of course. Not just around exercise, but all day long. Have a fluid plan just like you have a food plan. When you wake in the morning drink at least 2 cups of water. Throughout the day take sips from the drinking fountain or carry a water bottle with you. Adding ice to the water and using a thermal sleeve can help it stay cold for several hours.
Sports drinks are fabulous for around exercise, but they should not be the beverages that you drink all day long. You want to get your calories and electrolytes from foods that also contain all the other important nutrients you need to perform at peak levels. Sports drinks are lacking in everything except the 3 nutrients that your body directly uses during exercise: water, sugar and electrolytes. They are empty of everything else so that these nutrients can be absorbed and utilized quickly during activity. Throughout the day choose water, lowfat and nonfat milk and 100% fruit juices to round out your fluid intake and nutrition.
Fluid Replacement for Athletes—A Summary of Practical Applications from the National Athletic Trainers Association Position Statement
2-3 hours before, drink 17-20 oz of water or sport drink
10-20 minutes before, drink 7-10 oz of water or sport drink.
Athletes benefit from drinking fluid with carbohydrate in many situations.
If exercise lasts more than 45 minutes or is intense, fluid with carbohydrate (sport drink) should be provided during the session.
A 6%-8% carbohydrate solution maintains optimal carbohydrate metabolism.
During events when a high rate of fluid intake is necessary to sustain hydration, carbohydrate composition should be kept low (less than 7%) to optimize fluid delivery.
Fluids with salt (sodium chloride) are beneficial to increasing thirst and voluntary fluid intake, as well as offsetting losses.
Cool beverages at temperatures of 10 degrees to 15 degrees C (50 degrees to 59 degrees F) are recommended.
Every 10-20 minutes, drink 7-10 oz. of water or a sport drink. Athletes should be encouraged to drink beyond their thirst.
Within 2 hours, drink enough to replace any weight loss from exercise; approximately 20 oz. of water or sport drink per pound of weight loss.
Within 6 hours, drink an additional 25%-50% more than weight loss from exercise.
-- Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN
If you have any questions about hydration, leave a comment and I will pass them along to Dr. Kleiner. And be sure to check out her web site (here)!
Drink up, everyone!