Staying hydrated isn’t always easy, yet it’s necessary to not only achieving optimal athletic performance but greater overall health.
While it seems that the way to stay hydrated is super simple (just drink a lot of water!) many runners struggle to achieve optimal hydration, especially during periods of intense training.
That’s why I’ve compiled this list of ten tips and strategies that you can use to help stay hydrated.
1. How Much Water Do You Need?
While the old rule of eight glasses a day isn’t too far off, it’s more accurate to measure how much water you need in a day based on your weight and size.
In general, you should drink ½-1 ounce of water of your body weight.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume between 75 and 150 ounces of fluid (which is roughly 19 cups of water!).
Keep in mind that 20% of your H20 intake should also come from your diet (see #6). Know the capacity of your water bottles, and how many times you need to refill them in order to meet your needs.
2. Know How You Like Water
This may seem like a no-brainer, but drinking water the way you like it served, helps you consume the amount you need to during the day.
It’s ok to be a bit of a water snob when you’re training for a race or on race day.
Consider these questions: do you prefer bottled water or tap water? Ice cold or room temperature?
With a straw or without? With lemon or without? Out of a glass or out of a bottle?
When you can first picture what your ideal serving of water looks like, then it’s easier to figure out how can you make sure that you have access to the water that you want to drink at all times.
If you are well hydrated, then you will not have a feeling of thirst, which means that you won’t go to the sink and fill up a lukewarm glass of tap water out of desperation (see #4).
It’s important to have a desire to drink water in order to stay hydrated. For some people, this means they add raw fruit or veggies to their water, some people invest in a water dispenser, some people might trade in their aluminum water bottle for a plastic one (I always hated the slight metallic taste it gives to water), and some people start buying a specific brand or type of water because it’s their favorite.
Understanding how you like your water will help you decide what changes you need to make in your routine so that you always have access to water you want to drink.
3. Do Sports Drinks Count?
Nobody wants to only drink water, and it’s beneficial to hydrate using other nutrient-rich beverages.
However, there are a lot of myths out there about which beverages are hydrating and which aren’t. Here they are debunked once and for all.
First of all, there is not a single beverage out there that is “dehydrating” except for those that contain alcohol.
Alcohol is the only liquid that is considered dehydrating because it slows down your body’s ability to absorb water. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages get a bad rap because they contain diuretics.
A “diuretic,” such as caffeine, is simply a substance that promotes the production of urine. They allow your body to process fluid quickly and therefore eliminate fluid in the body through frequent urination, but they do not have any effect on your body’s ability to absorb water.
Caffeine has not been proven to dehydrate you. In fact, hundreds of studies have shown that consuming coffee or other caffeinated beverages about an hour before physical activity can actually help improve your performance.
Below are a few examples of healthy drinks besides water.
The Best Drinks for Runners:
These alternatives to water all contain nutritional benefits in addition to a good dosage of H20, and little to no sugar content.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade can be beneficial hydration drinks after an intensive workout or run, but it’s better to replenish your electrolytes the natural way by drinking coconut water/juice or by having an electrolyte-rich snack like a banana, a sweet potato, a handful of almonds, or a yogurt.
Keep in mind everyone has a different sweat rate so try not to get caught up in the amount of fluids you drink after your run.
The Bad Beverages:
All of these beverages are bad choices for runners based on one common denominator: too much sugar and little to no nutrients.
While they are full of fluids, and can have some nutritional benefits, there are much better choices that you can make as alternatives to water that contain fewer calories, more nutrients, and deliver better hydration.
4. Drink By Schedule, Not by Thirst
Many runners already know that feeling thirsty is one of the first signs of dehydration. Yet, many people forget to drink water unless they are thirsty. The remedy to this problem is to try to drink by schedule, and not rely on your thirst to remind you when to drink water.
After calculating how much water per day you need to drink, you can write down your plan of action to make sure you drink enough throughout the day so you aren’t chugging the last 80 oz. right before bed.
Blogger Modernly Morgan put together a great way to keep track of your water schedule. You can set alarms on your phone, or even post the schedule on a sticky note by your desk if you typically forget to drink water.
5. Timing Of When You Should Drink Fluids
Take only 1-2 sips of water 30 minutes before running and during your workout.
Trying to hydrate just before or while you are working out can cause muscle cramps and side stitches (but these can also be caused by dehydration so make sure that you hydrate on schedule when you are not working out).
6. Eat Foods That Contain Water
Experts say that you should consume about 20% of your daily water intake from your diet, and many people who eat a balanced diet do so naturally without having to necessarily think about it.
To improve and maintain your hydration, incorporate these H20 dense food items into your diet as much as possible: cucumbers, raw radishes, celery, watermelon, raw broccoli, peaches, yogurt, raw carrots, plums, apples, and lean grilled chicken breast. Here are 6 foods that are high in water content.
-You might like: Foods You Should Eat Before Running A Race
7. Keep Your Water Bottle With You
Think about what your typical day looks like, and plan where you can place your water bottle so that it will visually remind you to drink water and refill the bottle often. It might be your desk, your car, or in the break room.
If you tend to leave your water bottle places or forget to grab it, leave one at the three most visited places in your daily routine (one by your bed, one on your desk, and one in your car, for example).
I ended up picking up an insulated one that keeps my water cool most of the day and it's half the price of the fancy ones and Yeti's. This is the one that I have.
8. Create A Routine
The first thing you do in the morning should be to drink a glass of water, and it should be the last thing you do before you turn out the lights.
Make it the first thing you do when you get to work, and the last thing you do before you leave. Make it the first thing you do when you sit down to eat a meal, and what you do right after you are finished.
Developing a hydration plan during and after your runs is important to keep your routine the same.
For example, I typically drink before my run and drink very little on my shorter runs (3-5 miles) anything above my shorter runs I add in drinking water as part of my run.
If you are interested, here are a few hydration packs that I recommend (article).
9. Keep Some In Your Vehicle
The car is the hardest place for me to remember to drink water. I spend a lot of time in my car, but I often forget to grab a full water bottle before I walk out the door, or I have an empty one on hand that I can’t fill up.
I’ve gotten into the habit of buying packs of water to leave in the backseat, that way I can reach back and grab one every time I’m on the road (also, I make it the first thing I do when I get in the car, and the last thing I do before I get out).
10. Use Water Fountains
Make a habit of using the water fountain every time you see one. Drink for at least 30 seconds every time. No matter what.
Even when you are in a hurry. Even if you just drank a whole bottle of water.
Making this habit automatic can help you consume up to five times more water in any given day, depending on where you are or what you are doing.
It’s a good way to remember to drink even when you are doing something that might distract you from your “drinking” schedule, like shopping or walking in the park with a friend.
My last piece of advice with these tips is an obvious one - the more water you consume, the more you will have to go to the bathroom. That's just how our bodies are created. The good news is that the more water you consume the more of the non-water fluids are cleaned out of our system.
Think about your body like a filtration system. Anytime you drink something your pee always comes out either clear or a shade of yellow. The more you are hydrated the clearer it is, regardless of what you drink. So your body will continue to filter out the sugars and other items in fluids. The more water you drink, the better chance you can flush it out.