Water truly is the key to life. Without it, there is no life. Especially a running life here in Central Texas. Being adequately hydrated before, during and after every run, is an absolute must to safe, healthy running during the summer heat.
Certainly, adequate hydration is key for any person—runner or not—but a runner’s hydration needs are a great deal different than a non-runner.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about water and a runner’s special needs:
1. How can you tell whether you’re drinking enough and are adequately hydrated?
If you have properly hydrated, you should have to urinate several times during the day and the color of your urine after a run, should be a pale yellow. If you haven’t had to urinate for several hours, that’s a warning sign of dehydration. To confirm that, when you eventually do urinate, the color tends to be a bright yellow. Other common signs of mild dehydration are thirst (duh), a low-grade headache or listlessness. More severe dehydration signs are nausea, chills, inability to sweat and a light-headed feeling. Dehydration is the excessive loss of body water which disrupts the metabolic process. If any signs of dehydration are evident, you must begin pounding the fluids immediately.
2. Is eight glasses of water a day enough for runners?
Definitely not. For an average-sized person who does not exercise, the old rule of eight glasses a day of water is probably OK. But for a Central Texan running at any time of day during the summer, it is definitely inadequate. Certainly the hotter it is, the more you sweat and the more you run, means the greater amount of water you need to drink. The absolute minimum for a runner is about 16 ounces of water for every 500 calories you burn on a daily basis. An average active runner burns between 2000 and 2500 calories a day which translates to approximately 64 to 80 ounces of water each and every day. This is a minimum. Running in our summer heat, means you need to drink even more than that. But you should also realize that you get water from plenty of other food sources such as juices, fruits and vegetables.
3. While running, how much should you drink?
Again, it depends how hot it is but generally you should plan to drink between five and 10 ounces of water or sports drink every 20 minutes. Drink before you run (so you don’t start the run already dehydrated) and rehydrate as soon as you finish. The warmer it is, the more you will need to drink before, during and after.
4. What’s the difference between sports drinks and water?
The basic difference between sports drinks, such as Gatorade, Nuun, All Sport and Powerade, is they have small amounts of carbohydrates. Water doesn’t. In addition to keeping you hydrated, the carbs in sports drinks provide energy which you will need if you run for longer an hour. Water is fine to keep you hydrated on runs less than hour, but if you’re going long you should use sports drinks to fuel your muscles and keep you properly hydrated. The other difference is taste. Most runners feel sports drinks taste better than plain water so they are more likely to drink more of a sports drink than water.
5. Runners sweat a lot in the summer. Is that a good argument for using sports drinks over water?
It is. From a running standpoint, sports drinks provide a tangible benefit for one important reason: Sweat. And if you run hard enough in Texas this summer, you will sweat buckets. When you sweat, you lose small amounts of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium–two of the minerals you need to help maintain proper water balance in your tissues. Drinking water obviously helps you stay hydrated, but sports drinks have these electrolytes in their formula. In addition, sports drinks provide sodium and potassium which allows you to absorb water better into your body than drinking just plain water.
6. But aren’t the sports drinks mainly water?
Absolutely. The greatest ingredient in any sports drink is water which is–of course–invaluable. But the carbs in sports drinks also help the body absorb the water in the sports drink faster than if you drink just water.
7. Is bottled water better than plan tap water?
Not necessarily. Tap water in Texas is perfectly safe. Bottled water may taste better than tap water, but plenty of bottled water comes from the same municipal water supply as tap water. Some bottled water comes from a well or spring (Ozarka comes from a spring) and is usually purer than tap water.
8. All bottled water isn’t the same?
No. There is purified (bottled) water which has all its minerals removed from it. Spring water comes from an underground spring where water flows naturally to the surface. Mineral water comes from an underground source as well and contains such minerals as calcium, magnesium, sodium and iron. Sparkling water is naturally carbonated water. Generally, mineral water is the tastiest and the minerals it contains are beneficial to runners.
9. Are water filters worth it?
Definitely. There are numerous kinds that cost about $25-30 and they filter out the poor taste and odors from tap water. Often, the chlorine in tap water is responsible for the poor taste and a filter on your faucet (or in a special water jug) will greatly improve the water’s taste and it’s very economical. If it tastes better, you are likely to drink more.
10. Is cold water better than for you than room temperature?
Yes and no. Cool water may taste better and you may drink more of it, but it’s the same.