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Runner Tips

The importance of hydration for runners

A runner sits down to drink water after a run.
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Do you run with a water bottle, or do you power through without? No matter which kind of runner you are, or if you're a little of both, it's always important to know the importance of hydration. Learn how to make sure your body has the liquid fuel it needs to keep moving.

Your body runs on water

Trying to run while severely dehydrated can feel like running through quicksand. It's not a pleasant feeling (not to mention counterproductive). A lack of hydration can mean slower mile times, but more importantly, it can be dangerous to your health. Instead of allowing yourself to get to that point, though, it's time to figure out exactly what your body's needs are when it comes to H2O.

For starters, what's actually considered dehydration? The Mayo Clinic explains dehydration as when your body has lost more water than it has taken in. Considering water makes up about 50–70% of your body weight, this can be harmful. Not only do you lose water when you sweat and urinate, but you also lose electrolytes, which can cause muscle cramps and tissue damage. Without water, your body can't properly get rid of waste.

Looking out for dehydration

It's easy to dehydrate in the hotter months, but you can't ignore the importance of hydration in the winter, either. Since it's hard to feel overly thirsty in the cold, we may not think to consume as much as we should prior to running.

Some of the first signs of dehydration are dry mouth and thirst, followed by dizziness, fatigue, and dark urine. However, even if you're only feeling a little thirsty at the start of your run, surprise — you're already dehydrated.

That's because hydration starts before you hit the road. Drinking enough water should be an everyday healthy habit, not just a way to prep before a race or long run. A good measure for a non-athlete, as noted by the Mayo Clinic is about 15.5 cups of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups of fluids a day for women. From there, go by thirst level. In the summertime, that may look like an additional 12 ounces per half-hour of activity.

A runner sits down to drink water after a run.

Keep in mind that trying to cram all of your water in right before your run can have adverse effects, just like running thirsty can. While overhydration is rare, it can happen. If you can't seem to cool down or quench your thirst, it's possible to take in too much water and dilute your electrolytes. This can result in a condition called hyponatremia, where your levels of sodium drop dangerously low. The symptoms are similar to dehydration: dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Take in some tasty electrolytes

If you struggle to drink enough water, or even if you're worried about overhydration, consider adding electrolytes to your water in the form of low-sugar energy powders or juice. Or, consider eating fruits rich in both electrolytes and water. For instance, watermelon is almost completely water, as are strawberries and grapefruits.

It's important to prioritize your water and electrolyte intake, whether you want to smash a marathon time or just hit the road for a half-hour. Giving yourself a daily intake goal for everyday hydration is a great place to start.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

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Written By
Tonya Russell
Tonya Russell with her hands on her hips

I’m a journalist, fit chick, and avid traveler, and I often combine the three. If I’m not training for a marathon, I’m probably hiking with my dogs or riding a horse (English style). I hail from Southern NJ, which means I’m an Eagles fan, not a Giants fan.