July 10

Best Hydration Practices and Products for Runners

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Best Hydration Practices and Products for Runners

Are you adequately hydrating for your best performance?

How would mythology look different if the first marathoner, Pheidippides, had a better hydration plan? 

Legend has it that Pheidippides collapsed and died after his legendary run from the Marathon battlefield to Athens to proclaim victory over the Persians. Fortunately, today’s runners have plenty of options to hydrate and fuel their runs.

The Dangers of Dehydration

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Sources state that anywhere from 47% to 75% of the US population is chronically dehydrated. Chronic dehydration occurs when a person consistently loses more water than they take in over a long period of time.

Since our bodies are 50-70% water, adequate hydration is necessary for everyday life and is extra important for active individuals who experience greater fluid loss through sweat during exercise.

Impacts on Physical Performance

Almost every runner has experienced the dreaded “cotton mouth” after a hot run that leaves you feeling dehydrated. But dehydration in athletics can be more serious than this simple discomfort and is directly tied to cardiovascular performance.

Dehydration can severely impact your physical performance, especially during exercise. As your body loses water through sweat, it becomes harder to regulate temperature, leading to an increased core temperature and heart rate. This can cause early fatigue, reduced endurance, and impaired strength. Staying hydrated keeps your heart rate lower and core temperature stable during exercise, preventing overexertion and heat-related issues.

Dehydration also affects muscle function, increasing the risk of cramps and injuries. For active individuals, staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining optimal performance and preventing these adverse effects.

Health Risks

Beyond performance issues, dehydration poses serious health risks. When the body is dehydrated, it struggles to maintain essential physiological functions, potentially leading to heat stress, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. 

Chronic dehydration can result in kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and long-term kidney damage. In severe cases, dehydration can cause confusion, dizziness, and fainting. Active women and men need to prioritize hydration to protect their overall health and well-being. Proper hydration supports not only athletic performance but also fundamental bodily functions and long-term health.

Recommended Daily Fluid Intake

Before you commit to an athletic hydration plan, hydrating for everyday life is the first step. You want to ensure you’re meeting basic hydration levels that are recommended for everyone, regardless of activity level. As a general guideline, women should consume about 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water per day, including all beverages and moisture in foods. Men should aim for 3.7 liters (125 ounces).

Profile

Daily Fluid Intake per Day

Women

2.7 L (91 oz)

Men

3.7 L (125 oz)

While these are the general guidelines for all individuals, physically active individuals, like runners, should consume more fluids to account for sweat loss during exercise. It is recommended that for moderate activity, individuals increase their fluid intake by 0.5-1.0 liters (16-32 ounces) per hour of exercise.

Factors Influencing Hydration Needs

A number of things can influence your hydration needs and some of these factors, like the climate, are outside of our control. Consider these factors when developing your hydration plan.

Climate: Hot and humid weather increases fluid loss through sweat.
Exercise Intensity: More intense or prolonged exercise increases the need for hydration.
Body Size and Composition: Larger individuals or those with more muscle mass may require more fluids.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women require higher levels of fluid intake to sustain a healthy pregnancy. A doctor or midwife can help you determine if you are staying hydrated throughout your pregnancy.
Breastfeeding: Like pregnancy, breastfeeding also requires additional fluids to sustain milk production. A women's health provider or lactation consultant can help you set and meet fluid requirements.

Hydration Tips

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Regular water is the simplest and most common way that most individuals hydrate. However, water isn’t the only way for you to hydrate. In fact, most individuals should drink a variety of fluids – not just water – so that the body receives electrolytes which are also essential to hydration.

Quality Hydration Sources

Fluids
  1. Water: The simplest and most effective way to stay hydrated. Carry a reusable water bottle and drink regularly throughout the day.
  2. Herbal Teas: Non-caffeinated herbal teas can contribute to your daily fluid intake and provide additional health benefits.
  3. Coconut Water: A natural source of electrolytes, making it a great alternative to sports drinks.
  4. Electrolyte Drinks: Ideal for replenishing lost salts and minerals during intense workouts. Look for drinks that contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium like Gnarly Hydrate.

BONUS: Gnarly Hydrate has limited summer flavors for 2024 like Salted Margarita and Piña Colada; check them out!

Diet
  1. Fruits: Incorporate water-rich fruits like watermelon, strawberries, oranges, and cucumbers into your diet. These fruits are not only hydrating but also packed with essential vitamins and minerals.
  2. Vegetables: Vegetables such as lettuce, celery, and bell peppers have high water content and can help keep you hydrated. Adding these to salads and meals can boost your fluid intake.
  3. Soups and Broths: Soups and broths are excellent for hydration. They not only provide fluids but also deliver nutrients that support overall health.
  4. Smoothies: Blend water-rich fruits and vegetables with some yogurt or milk for a hydrating and nutritious snack.

Monitor Your Intake

How do you know if you're well hydrated? There will be signs. Keep an eye on your overall energy levels and be consistent about your fluid intake. These tips can help you feel good around the clock.

  • Drink Regularly: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty; sip water throughout the day.
  • Monitor Urine Color: Light yellow urine usually indicates adequate hydration.
  • Hydrate At All Times: Hydrate before, during, and after exercise. Before starting a workout, drink at regular intervals throughout the day. Then, consume fluids consistently throughout the duration of your workout. Finally, replenish with fluids post-exercise.

Develop Your Personal Hydration Plan

For short, low-intensity sessions, drink water as needed. For longer, high-intensity workouts, plan your hydration with pre, intra, and post-exercise strategies.

Pre-Exercise Hydration

Consume fluids throughout the day and aim to drink 16-24 ounces of electrolyte-rich water two hours before exercise. Monitor your urine color to gauge overall hydration. Exercising while dehydrated can lead to decreased performance and muscle cramps.

Intra Exercise Hydration

Even brief, 30-minute workouts may require hydration as you go. And longer workouts definitely require intra exercise hydration. As you workout, hydrate with electrolytes, especially sodium, to replace what's lost as you sweat. Aim to consume 500 mg of sodium per 24 ounces of water during exercise. Depending on your workout and the climate, you may need to increase your intake. 

Post-Exercise Hydration

Replenish with 16-24 ounces of an electrolyte drink to aid recovery. Include water-rich foods and salty snacks to retain fluids. We also recommend consuming protein within 30 minutes after your workout. For some people, it's helpful to plan a fun post-workout snack. Not only is the nutrition and hydration necessary, it can also be rewarding!

Hydration Training Day Example

Pre-Exercise

Drink .59 L (20 oz) of water or electrolyte mix 2 hours before exercise

Intra-Exercise

Hydrate at 0.4-0.8 L (13-26 oz) per hour

Post-Exercise

Drink about 0.5 L (16-24 oz) of electrolyte replacement after exercise

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Common Myths About Hydration

You Only Need to Drink When Thirsty
Thirst is a late indicator of dehydration. By the time you feel thirsty, your body may already be dehydrated. It's essential to drink water regularly throughout the day, especially if you're active.
All Fluids Hydrate Equally
Not all fluids are created equal when it comes to hydration. While water is the best option, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can have a diuretic effect, leading to increased fluid loss.
Clear urine is the Only Sign of Proper Hydration
While clear urine can indicate good hydration, pale yellow urine is also a sign that you're adequately hydrated. Completely clear urine might suggest overhydration.
Sports Drinks are Necessary for All Activities
Sports drinks are beneficial for high-intensity workouts lasting over an hour, as they replace lost electrolytes. For shorter or less intense activities, water is typically sufficient.

Understanding these myths can help you develop better hydration habits, ensuring you stay properly hydrated for your active lifestyle.
You Can't Overhydrate
Overhydration, or hyponatremia, occurs when you drink excessive amounts of water (without electrolytes), diluting the sodium in your blood. This can be dangerous and lead to severe health issues.


Tags

Athletic Nutrition, gnarly, Gnarly Nutrition, Nutrition, partners, running


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