Top Ten Hydration Tips for Running on Hot Summer Days

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Drink Before Running

Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS

Here in Wisconsin, we have had some record setting temperatures, especially for June. We have had marathons cancel during the race due to the number of athletes with heat related problems, and some marathons did not even hear a starting gun due to high temperatures. With temps and humidity so high, even early morning runs have not provided the typical relief Wisconsinites are accustomed to during the summer months. While there are some common sense things you can do to combat the heat and sun, like wearing a visor, sunscreen, moisture wicking clothing, light colored clothing, and picking a more shaded route to run, the best thing you can do is have a good hydration plan. So, here are some tips for hydrating to thrive, not just survive, in your training runs during the dog days of summer still ahead.

10) Drink before you run. Your hydration level before your run is equally important to hydrating during your run on a hot, sunny day. When temps are above seventy, and humidity is high, make that an electrolyte drink. Plan to drink 16 ounces if you can get it down at least one hour before your run, but only 6-8 ounces 15-30 minutes before your run to prevent sloshing in your tummy.

9) Do not drink alcohol the night before a long run. This will dehydrate you and leave you feeling sluggish. Skip the liquor and opt instead for some ice water with lemon, or a non-carbonated beverage of your choice.

Stay Hydrated8) Drink 6-8 ounces of fluids for every 15-20 minutes is a good general estimate of what you will need during your training run. If you are running in hot and humid weather for more than 3 miles, or anytime you run for 6 miles or more, make sure you hydrate with an electrolyte drink, not just water.

7) Check out what beverage will be handed out during your target race, and train with that beverage during your training runs. Don’t assume every race serves up Gatorade - beverages on race courses vary based on sponsorship deals and the favorites of the race director. Training with the target beverage will acclimate your taste buds and your digestive system to maintain proper hydration during your race, especially if it is a brand new electrolyte beverage for you.

6) Use a bathroom scale to check your hydration level before and after running. Percentage of water loss is determined by the # of pounds you lose divided by your starting body weight. If your calculated percentage is greater than 1%, you are dehydrated. Plan to drink 1 mL of fluid for every gram of lost body mass. If you are down 2 pounds after running, plan to drink 32 ounces of fluids (16 ounces for every pound you lose) after your run. This does not include the beverages you consume during your run. Your urine should also be light to clear, versus yellow or dark yellow.

5) If straight up Gatorade or Powerade is too sweet for your taste buds and too hard to digest, don’t be afraid to water it down 50-50, as most race courses hand out both an electrolyte beverage and water at the same hydration stations. Keep in mind this may lessen the amount of electrolyte you take in if you take a cup of water and Gatorade, versus 2 cups of Gatorade. If funds are low, you can make your own electrolyte beverage. Here’s a recipe to get you started: 2 qts water 2 tsp salt ½ cup sugar 1 packet Kool-Aid or 1 qt of cranberry juice cocktail (decrease water to 1 qt if using the cranberry cocktail) Mix all ingredients and serve cold

4) To Gu or not to Gu? It’s not really a question if you are training for a full marathon. For recreational runners, we simply cannot adequately replace the carbs and electrolytes we consume during a marathon by drinking carb/electrolyte beverages alone. For most runners, this means breaking open a carb/electrolyte gel around mile 18, so your body can digest and utilize the carbs contained in Gu by the time you hit the wall at mile 20 and endure the rest of the miles to 26.2. Ingredients in Gu-type products vary. If your digestive system can handle it, choose a product with caffeine, as research has shown caffeine is capable of increasing your endurance during long-distance events when consumed before and during endurance activities. As always, test your favorite product during your 16, 18, 20, and 20+ training runs to give you practice in getting it down as well as acclimatizing your digestive system. Hint: drink something after you take it!!

3) Warm or cold beverage? You may think the answer is obvious, but research demonstrates some value in drinking water that is lukewarm, because it is digested more quickly. However, cold water and better yet, ice cold water, increases endurance in research subjects, as well as decreasing the subjects’ perceived effort. Plus, the temp of your drink may keep you from adequately hydrating, so place your bets on the cold beverage when a cold beverage is available.

2) Camel pack, water bottle harness, hydration belt, simply carrying your beverage, purchasing during your run? So many options, how do you know which will work for you? You have to know yourself, your likes and dislikes. Personally, I hate wearing extra anything on my back in 80 degree temps, and I have a history of low back pain, making my belt line area sensitive to anything strapped to it. So I have found luck purchasing Gatorade or Powerade in park vending machines, as long as you know the beverages are routinely stocked. Nothing is worse than counting on a purchased beverage only to find none available or the machine out of order during your run and the nearest gas station miles away. Dropping off AND HIDING Gatorade bottles along my race route before starting my run has also been a good option. I highlight the hiding the bottle portion (hide it very, very well!!!), because I have had the unfortunate experience of having my bottle stolen, along with my Gu on a 17 mile long run. While I could not find the perpetrator (trust me, I have never resorted to violence in the past, but I really would have chased this person down and done some serious damage had I caught a glimpse of the low-life!). Personally, I hope the perpetrator choked on my Gu, but I have digressed, royally… moving on.

Walk While Drinking1) Walk while you drink! Sounds like common sense, but even I admit to folding my paper cup to gulp down some fluids during the first couple of water stations to avoid losing precious seconds. The problem is that most of the fluids get lost in the attempt, and you gain a false sense of hydration for which you will pay for later in the race. Unless you are an elite runner with your own bottle of your preferred beverage waiting for you at each hydration station, if you feel you must run while you hydrate, you will have to carry your own fluids in a squeeze bottle. Also, more and more runs provide water stations at every mile or two. This does not mean you need to drink water at every water station, as this will cause hyponatremia, which is a serious medical condition requiring prompt medical attention. Calculate your hydration needs and test out your calculations during your training runs and modify as needed by paying attention to your post-run hydration (i.e. weigh yourself). Paying attention to hydration needs during your training runs will teach you how to maintain a hydration level of less than a 2% loss, which will contribute to your PR on race day. And that’s a goal everyone can agree on!

Happy running!!