The Importance of Hydration Before and After Running: A Guest Blog

This guest blog is by Harper Reid, a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who is passionate about healthy living and fitness. When she's not writing, you'll find her sweating it out in the gym, practicing yoga or checking out the latest fitness trends. You can find more of her work on her Tumblr.

Photo Credit: Alan Carrillo via Unsplash under  License

Photo Credit: Alan Carrillo via Unsplash under License

We can all appreciate, in theory, how vital water is to our health and wellbeing – but do we know the specifics of how H2O interacts with exercise? If you’re a runner, keeping hydrated will prove an integral aspect of your active lifestyle – and here’s why.

It starts beforehand
Hydrating for exercise doesn’t start the moment you run out the door; rather, you should prep for a good workout far in advance by regularly drinking H2O. It’s especially important to keep tabs on your hydration during the warmer months, as hot conditions will put extra strain on your muscles and vital organs - most of all your heart - while running.

The good old urine test is a sure-fire way to check your internal water levels. The darker and yellower, the more water you need to fuel your body with. Aim to drink regularly through the day, and consume an extra half a liter of water a few hours before you set out for a long run.

Photo Credit: Maarten van den Heuval via Unsplash under  License

Photo Credit: Maarten van den Heuval via Unsplash under License

 Running depletes your stores
When we’re dehydrated, the amount of water in our body decreases to the extent that we can lose up to 2% of our sum body weight. This loss of water wreaks havoc on our cardiovascular system, energy levels, and the efficacy of our muscle function. We tend to forget that our muscle cells are made up of 75% water, so it makes sense that if we’re losing fluid through sweat, we’ll feel weaker pretty quickly.

But don’t go too far in the other direction: too much fluid can be detrimental not only to your running performance (hello, water bloat!) but to your overall health. In the worst-case scenario, severe over-hydration can lead to hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when salt levels in the blood reach a life-threatening low.

Remembering to drink
Keeping hydrated isn’t a case of just remembering to drink when you’re bone thirsty. As a general rule, drink around 100ml of water every quarter of an hour that you exercise (this amount may need to be increased or decreased depending on your body size, the temperature outside, and the intensity or length of your run). If you need to set a watch alarm to remind you, then do so, and make things easier for yourself by investing in a hydration pack that you can easily pound the pavements with.

When doing an intense activity like running, you may want to switch out water for a sports drink with added carbohydrates and electrolytes. The kinds of chemicals and minerals contained within electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, and chloride) will replace the nutrients you lose by sweating, which will then help you to fend off the runner’s enemies – dizziness, leg cramps, and racing heartbeat. To DIY your own drink, mix a cup of water with a cup of orange juice and a pinch of salt – easy, effective, and tasty.

Photo Credit: Dominik Vanyi via Unsplash under  License

Photo Credit: Dominik Vanyi via Unsplash under License

The benefits of hydration
So: why is drinking water so important during, before, and after a run? Well, aside from keeping our bodies functioning at the cellular level, water can actually improve athletic performance. Studies have proven that running endurance and speed is enhanced significantly with proper hydration – we’re talking minutes off of your 10km time!

And since all that sweat loss can lead to very dry skin (something you’ll want to avoid if you suffer a skin condition like eczema), runners should keep in mind the benefits of hydration for skin health. Skin is an organ like any other, with skin cells mainly comprised of water. If you’ve been feeling a little dry around the edges lately, you may want to start taking hydration during exercise more seriously.