It seemed like a pretty mild early-summer for us here in NY. That was until the last few weeks, when temperatures and humidity have jumped up all of a sudden to the heights that we were expecting. Or is it actually hotter than usual? We don’t know, but it’s toasty.

Throughout the year it’s always stressed how important it is that we stay hydrated, especially when exercising, and even more of an area of focus when the conditions are like they are currently. Good hydration practices will not only benefit your general health and wellbeing, but contribute to good training and recovery from exercise and injury. 

Water is an essential part of pretty much every single bodily part, function and process – we are ~70% water after all – making it critical for health as well as performance. When we sweat, most of what is lost is water. The other components are mostly electrolytes and compounds dissolved within water which are also highly important for many bodily functions like muscle contractions. You’d likely have heard of the importance of sodium, potassium and magnesium in your diet, too. They are just some of the electrolytes that you’ll also lose via sweat, and are commonly found in electrolyte drinks as well as many different foods.

The general guidance for drinking water always traditionally suggested 8-cups of water each day, but more recently this has become less widely considered to be an appropriate blanket statement for everyone. 

The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) instead advises that endurance athletes should consume 5 – 7ml water per kilogram bodyweight in the four hours before exercise. Drinking to thirst is a good indicator that you are hydrating a suitable amount without having to measure each serving out. Water is, of course, going to be a significant component of this intake, but you could also include electrolyte mixes as well as juices and sports drinks to your routine.

With lots of us training for long durations throughout the summer for fall marathons, halfs and more, should we be drinking on the run? If so, how much and when? Well as with everything, this will vary between individuals – you might have a training partner who is fine to run 90 minutes without anything, whilst find you need fluids after an hour of training. 

Generally, any training of around an hour in duration should be perfectly manageable and safe without having to consume any fluids. But once you creep up in distance much above that 60-70min barrier, then hydration regularly should be a strong consideration. A study by Judge in the Journal for Human Kinetics suggests 200-300ml every 15-20min, which roughly matches other guidance of 5-10oz for the same time period.

Here is a helpful graphic from Amy, NY Run Academy coach and professional nutritionist who advises lots of athletes from many disciplines:

A further analysis of literature by Louise Burke in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism also notes the importance of Carbohydrate intake within training and racing over long distances (the Half/Marathon). This has a lot of overlap and influence on hydration strategies given the variety of products available, including carb-drinks. This is a whole other post that we should cover in future! Again the recommendation varies, but 30-60g of Carbs per hour are widely accepted to give optimal performance.

At NY Run Academy our coaches also follow similar rules of thumb when advising athletes on hydration strategies for training and racing. Our PT, Coach and marathon runner Aubrey says “If I’m running over 70 minutes, I usually will take an electrolyte drink (I like Nuun) in the hour beforehand and bring a handheld bottle for sips during the run. Afterwards some of my go-to fluids for rehydration are coconut water, Gatorade or Nuun.”

Coach and marathoner Johannes also focuses on regular intervals between drinks: “Ideally during a marathon, long run or long session I try to drink at least 150ml roughly every 5k or 15 minutes of running. I use Maurten regularly”. When coaching, Johannes always encourages his athletes to practice in training the drinks strategy they plan to use in a race, just like he does in his own training. “Before a session, I also try to take a caffeine gel with water in the hour leading up to it, as well as a carb-based drink right afterwards for a quick recovery especially if I’ve planned more training later in the day.” 

Post-run should focus on replenishing fluids, particularly with electrolytes, alongside calories (most-optimally in the form of protein and carb -rich food!). Products* like Skratch, Nuun, and LMNT are all electrolyte mixes our team have used in the past for post-training hydration. Smoothies can be a great way to kickstart your rehydration with a calorie and nutrient-rich punch. It is worth considering that you can also gain lots of fluids from your foods: vegetables and fruits both being really effective at doing so. You can always ensure your meals also contain electrolytes. Oatmeal with sliced banana and a little salt or pretzels with peanut butter  are more natural ways to replenish electrolytes.

Despite lots of research and study from the exercise-science community, there isn’t a definitive rule that applies across the board for fluid and electrolyte intake. Therefore it is important that you understand what works for you through proper experimenting based on some of the general outlines that we’ve mentioned above. Finally, here are some things to consider for your hydration strategy:

  • What is my hydration status at the start of the run/workout? This is one of the biggest factors to consider, says Amy:  “All other guidelines are meaningless if current hydration status is not taken into account. Starting a run dehydrated or glycogen depleted, regardless of the distance, requires fueling/hydration. For example, many athletes workout in the cooler part of the evening and become dehydrated. If the next day is a short recovery run,they will benefit from a handheld and sports drink with electrolytes. The goal is to start any workout hydrated and fueled. If that cannot happen, fueling /hydrating during the run is necessary”
  • How far and how intense is my training session? Longer and more intense work will increase your sweat loss and make the consideration for electrolytes and carbs even more important
  • Is it especially hot and/or humid today?
  • How prone am I to GI Distress? Many athletes mistake GI issues with food/gel intolerance but it’s actually low blood volume from dehydration.
  • Will I be doing another workout later in the day? This increases the need for strong hydration practices!

*We are not sponsored or affiliated with the products we have recommended. Instead these are suggestions based on what our coaches have used personally and found to be beneficial.

References 

Judge LW, Bellar DM, Popp JK, Craig BW, Schoeff MA, Hoover DL, Fox B, Kistler BM, Al-Nawaiseh AM. Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. J Hum Kinet. 2021 Jul 28;79:111-122. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2021-0065. PMID: 34400991; PMCID: PMC8336541.

Burke, L. M., Jeukendrup, A. E., Jones, A. M., & Mooses, M. (2019). Contemporary Nutrition Strategies to Optimize Performance in Distance Runners and Race Walkers, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 29(2), 117-129. Retrieved Jul 11, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2019-0004