Monday, July 20, 2009

* MaRaThOn MoNdAy *

One thing I’ve learned over my running “career” – beginning in high school when I would just run a mile or two for fitness up until now, with two marathons under my belt, is the utter importance of hydration!!!

Many runners I’ve spoken to seem to be confused about how much water to drink, when, and what to drink. Water, Gatorade, special sports drinks fortified with electrolytes? What is best?

The average person needs to drink at least two quarts of water a day if they are NOT working out, so obviously athletes need to take it quite a bit more!

When you are working out heavily and begin to lose fluids, salt and electrolytes from sweating, you need to replace these or the body is unable to cool itself. Although the weather temps may be high and you may “feel” hot inside, your body may become cool and moist to the touch, you may start getting cramping, fatigue, or dehydration, your pulse may speed up, and your breathing may become more labored.

Most experts recommend drinking about 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes when you are exercising for less than an hour. From my research and experience, when you are working out for less than an hour you typically won’t need to be drinking anything but water – and usually you shouldn't be drinking anything that has additional electrolytes, such as Gatorade, because it is equally dangerous to have too much of this substance.

When working out for longer than an hour, you definitely need to start taking in some substance that contains salt and electrolyte replenishment, which can be found in the form of a sports drink or a gel (such as the Gu brand) or a chew (such as Luna moons or my favorite, Sports Jelly Bellies). Your muscles need these to maintain the electrolyte balance that your muscles use as fuel!

If you decide to take the gu or gel, make sure to drink at least a cup of water at the same time to “dilute” the electrolytes so that they are evenly distributed into your bloodstream. Also, if you take these without water many people find that they get nauseous or suffer from stomach cramping. Whatever you do, do NOT take a Gu or chew with an electrolyte-fortified drink, only take them with water!

I recently read about a study where runners took in either an electrolyte-containing sports drink or a placebo drink, and the athletes in the former group were able to perform drastically better than the placebo group. Also, to me running is a very mental sport so if I begin to “drag” during a run, I find that just take in some of these carb-replacement drinks or chews usually helps to get my energy levels back on track – even if this is just in my head, it seems to work into tricking my body into believing that it is true!

As crucial as it is to hydrate frequently during your runs, especially if it is very hot or humid outside, be careful to listen to your body. I have had many runs where I sucked down TOO much water, and my stomach began to hurt as a result. If you feel as if you need to drink the whole cup of water at the aid station, do it, but often your body just needs a few sips to replenish what it has lost – you can always catch up and drink more at the next aid station. Drinking TOO MUCH water – especially if you are a heavy sweater and are losing too many electrolytes and salt and are only taking in water – can lead to hyponatremia, which is a very serious condition that has even lead to death on many occasions. Many studies have found that women seem to be more prone to this than men. I myself am a very heavy sweater, so I take care to monitor my water and salt levels as much as I can.

During my first marathon, the Chicago Marathon of 2007, with unheard of temps over 100 degrees, the course ran out of water after the first few miles which had never happened before (and should NEVER happen). This was a very scary situation, and hundreds of runners were hospitalized that day as a result of the heat and dehydration. If you are concerned that your race may not provide adequate amounts of water and Gatorade or if it looks like it is an especially hot day, make sure to wear your own hydration belt so that you are always prepared!

Alright, I don’t want to put you guys to sleep so I think I will stop here and may talk a bit more about this subject next Monday! Happy running! :)


  1. THAT marathon was your first? Wowza. Impressive. I've heard the scary horror stories from that one!

  2. this is a great post!
    I definately notice a difference when I workout and I am not hydrated enough.

  3. Informative post,thanks!
    Reading this and Karena's post was really helpful.
    CM2007 situation sure sounds very scary.

  4. can never be too prepared! Val, SO GLAD you posted about consuming too much water. Most people don't think about it/know that there is such a thing as drinking too much water - I didn't know about it until it was a TNT topic that first summer of training!

    To keep things interesting, I like to alternate water and gatorade at each aid station :) On the gel + gatorade time I spaced out and ate a gel (w/some water from my bottle) shortly before an aid station where I grabbed a gatorade...o wow. Tummy not happy!!

  5. Thanks for a great post - I always drink tons of water during the work, but not so much during the weekend!

    Never heard of sports jelly belly's before!

  6. great post!!! lots of great info :)

  7. I need this advice today, I struggle so much with water intake. Thanks for this!!

  8. Thanks for sharing your fount of knowledge! I wonder all the time if I've drank enough or if I'm doing it right but so far so good! It's always good to read up on these subjects though, thanks for taking the time to share your tips.