By Kellee Donovan
Did you know that dehydration is the #1 leading cause of injury among athletes? As temperatures heat up it’s especially vital to remember that your hydration plan should not start on race day, and that you should be working your hydration plan throughout your entire training process. There are so many different types of hydration essentials out there, so choosing the right one may take some experimenting. Whatever your plan is, the most important thing is that you are taking the necessary steps to keep your body fueled before, during, and after your training.
Hydrating our bodies does more than just keep our thirst at bay. Proper hydration carries oxygen to our cells, converts food and nutrition into energy, cushions our joints, prevents overheating, aids in muscle recovery, and gives you every opportunity to have your best run or walk. Those are a lot of benefits for doing something so simple as drinking water! If you are going to be out for more than one hour, you will need some type of electrolyte replacement to keep you from hitting that metaphorical wall. Whether it’s GUs, Clif shots, Honey Stingers, Nuun tablets, whatever brand you like the best, these MUST be taken with water, otherwise the electrolytes will not absorb properly. If you have never tried gels or chews before, your training runs are for exploring different brands and flavors. Try not to mix two brands because if something goes wrong you won’t know which one did it! These products taken with water help you replace what you have lost when you sweat. It is slightly different with each brand, but it is typically recommended to take one gel or pack of chews 15 minutes before your workout, then every 45 minutes to avoid dehydration.
Pushing your body to the limit while dehydrated can be a slippery slope. Exercising while dehydrated can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, reduced concentration, dizziness, poor mood, dry or sticky mouth, and headaches. When you start losing fluid, even just a 2% loss in body mass due to fluid loss can result in a 20% decrease in physical performance. Wow! That being said, it is absolutely crucial to keep your body hydrated.
What does a hydration plan look like? It looks different for everyone, but it is recommended to contain some type of hydration belt or handheld and electrolyte replacements like gels or chews if you will be out for more than one hour. If you aren’t in the market for a belt or handheld you can always drop water somewhere or plan your route along drinking fountain locations. Nathan Sports recommends to consume 8-16 ounces of water about 1-2 hours pre and post-race, and during the race 3-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes. If you aren’t already practicing this, try it out and be amazed at the big difference it could make in your training.
At the end of the day, no two nutrition plans will look the same. You will find different gels and chews work better for you versus your running partner and you may not get it perfect on the first (or second or third) try. Then, by the time you get to race day you will be able to execute your plan without worrying about if you are taking the right products with you. The only thing you will have to be concerned with is having a great race!