July 3, 2012

Hydration: The basics

I’m thirsty.

Let’s talk hydration today.

Friday I linked to a post from Runner’s World about hydration<<. I keep going back to that article because it has some really good info.
I mean, we all know that hydration is super important for exercise, especially in the heat we’ve been having, but here’s


If you’re not adequately hydrated, your blood volume drops, which means your heart has to work harder to power your muscles and keep you cool. When that happens, your running performance suffers. (Casa)

One of my favorite go-to nutrition books is Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan. To explain just how important hydration is, Ryan starts off with it in the first chapter “Daily Hydration Essentials: Drinking it in.”

She flat out tells us that water is one of the most essential nutrients for the endurance athlete (5). I mean, I get that considering 2/3 of our body weight is water.
As an endurance athlete, one of the most important things we need to do is to stay on top of our daily fluid intake, and we should try to prevent even mild levels of dehydration (5). 

Something else she mentions is that water plays an integral role in the optimal functioning of [our bodies] both during training and during rest and recovery. It cools the body, provides structure to body parts, protecting important tissues (such as brain and spinal cord) and lubricates our joints (6).


We’ve been experiencing some hot days around these parts
And in this crazy heat wave, water is extremely important to help regulate our body temperature.

Despite the 45 minutes of thunder/lightening/cool, mighty breeze last night, we still haven’t had any rain.
I’ve been running early to avoid the heat and humidity, but let me tell you, I’m still thirsty.

And shame on me, I think I’ve been experiencing some dehydration headaches the last couple of days.
This is not the runner I am training to be.

often becomes the next question.

I’ve stocked my fridge with these

I perused the good ole interwebs to see what the common thought was on sparkling water for runners, and I pretty much got that it wasn’t a completely bad thing for hydration.
Now, I’ve tried sparkling water in the past for my own hydration issues, and I like it.
The sad thing is I always forget it exists.

From what I understand, sparkling/carbonated water isn’t bad for you, if you read the ingredient lists.
The WalMart special is pretty ok

0 sugars, 0 caffeine, 0 calories, 0 sodium, 0% juice. But, it does list aspartame in the ingredient list. Eh.

Some sparkling waters have fake flavors, or sugars pumped into them, so if you’re trying to stay the healthy route, just read the label.
And in my experience, I’m not drinking this while I run.
The carbonation in sparkling water is different than the carbonation in soda because it’s essentially just CO2 added to water to make it fizzy. It doesn’t include all the sugars and chemicals that sodas do.
But, carbonation does mess with your oxygen intake, so I don’t recommend drinking this before or while running. I don’t even drink it right after running.
I’m trying it more with meals, and in between to help hydrate me during the day.

And this gal<< loves it<< and even suggests sparkling water if you’re trying to drink more water or stop drinking soda.

Music Man has been trying to convince me for awhile that we need this machine, anyway.

Mainly because I’ve banned soda from our house. I quit drinking it 5 years ago when I started running, and I’m determined to convince him of it’s evil tendencies as well.
His argument is that’s is really just flavored water.
I’m not convinced when it’s called this

However, I did find these on the shelves when I was doing some in-depth research on the machine last weekend

I guess there are some new flavorings to add to the water that aren’t soda/tea/etc., but fruit-flavor enhancers.
And all of the flavors are supposed to be natural.
AKA what I’ve been drinking anyway.

Obviously water is the number one choice for hydration because we need to replenish what we lose, especially if we’re out training in this heat. But, water doesn’t have to be boring.

This sparkling bottle got emptied yesterday, and now it’s just tap water with lemon juice squirted in.
Suggestion courtesy of The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik

Here are a few of my favorite ways to flavor up my water:

  • Cucumber water – slice up a cucumber and add the slices to a pitcher of water in the fridge. It’s actually really delicious and refreshing, especially after a hot, evening run
  • Lime water – wedge a few limes, squirt the juice in a pitcher, then drop the wedges in to soak (I’m more a lime flavor gal than lemon)
  • Apple water – pour a glass of plain, sparkling water (like Perrier) and add just a splash of apple juice. Not enough that it’s too sugary sweet or more juice than water, but just enough to take away the blandness. You can even do this with plain tap water.
  • And yes—TAP water is perfectly fine to drink. In fact, tap water often has more minerals your body needs than bottled water. So, unless you have some crazy, contaminated pond water, drink from the tap. Your body thanks you.
  • Gatorade powder – I can add electrolytes to replenish after a run, and even consume a small amount during the day to build mine back up. By using the powder, I can measure the flavor myself.

This product is HUGE in the world of runners/endurance athlete, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to try it yet. It’s not offered anywhere in my area, and I just can’t quite shell out the $24.99 for a four tube pack. My grocery budget says no.
It’s on my list to someday try though.

Nuun not only has 11 electrolyte enhanced flavors, but 4 all day flavors that don’t have any added electrolytes, and 4 natural flavors enhanced with a lower electrolyte count and vitamins.
Just an easy way to flavor up your water and help balance your electrolyte intake after a hard workout or to keep you hydrated all day.

So, now we know why and how, but what about how much?

Well, that actually depends on you. Sports Nutrition suggests that male endurance athletes actually need an average of 16 cups  daily, and women need 12 cups daily.(7)  Slightly higher than the eight 8-oz cups of fluid a day we normally think about.
However, depending on daily fluid loss, the amount of fluid intake can vary significantly.
You basically want to judge your intake by your own sweat rate and loss for the day.
Not to be gross, but you can also judge by urine. If it’s completely clear or lemonade colored, you are drinking too much, but if it is dark or apple-juice colored (or there’s a small volume of output) you definitely need to drink more. You want an in between color (11).


  • Don’t judge your hydration by thirst alone. If you are thirsty, then your body has already sensed a decrease in the level of fluids or an increase in sodium concentration (7).
  • An important tip with hydration is to simply develop regular drinking habits, such as drinking a glass of water right after you get out of bed, drinking a certain amount every hour, drink a glass before bed, etc.
  • Water can only be half of your daily fluid intake. You can also get hydration benefits from things such as juices (not ones with a ton of sugar though), dairy milk, soy milk, soup, sports nutrition supplements, and even fruits and veggies.
  • Be sure to limit caffeinated beverages. I drink about 1 cup of coffee in the morning, so I’m still getting fluid but limiting caffeine.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times, and try to drink around 8 oz every hour.

For me, hydration is a constant struggle. I don’t like water very much (I know, I’m weird) so I’m constantly trying to find ways to make it better and keep it healthy. As I’m training for a marathon, my mileage is going way up, and in this heat, I’m seating monsoons. So fluid intake is extremely important not only for my health and my body, but for my running performance. I can always tell when I’m low on fluids because my legs just feel heavy. And I’m tired of running with heavy legs.

Tune in next week for hydrating before, during, and after workouts.

Passing the Baton: How is your hydration? Do you constantly drink water all day, or do you slack off like me? What are some of your flavor tips or favorite ways to spice up water? Any products you like?