Experts agree that proper hydration is key to a healthy lifestyle. Drinking enough water helps keep our organs functioning as they should, lubricates our joints, helps to deliver nutrients to our bodies and helps prevent infection. It can also help with cognitive functioning and the quality of our sleep.
In general, we should aim for about six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Plain water can be flavored with fruit or vegetables, such as lemons, berries, or orange or cucumber slices. Coffee or tea can also be a substitute for some of the water. The key is to stay away from sugary beverages.
In a CNN Health article, Douglas Casa, CEO of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, says that one of the best ways to tell whether you’re lacking fluids is by the color of your urine.
“The morning is the best time to get a global sense of your hydration status,” Casa advised. “If your urine looks more like apple juice instead of lemonade, then you’re dehydrated. On the flip side, the need to urinate throughout the day is a sign that you’re well-hydrated.”
However, the increased physical demands of a marathon runner may present a few additional questions about proper hydration. What’s the right way to hydrate before, during and after a race?
The Cleveland Clinic offers some general guidelines. In the weeks before the race, make sure you’re drinking lots of non-sugary fluids to ensure you’re well hydrated. This, along with a healthy diet, will help put you in top physical shape when race day arrives. A chat with your healthcare provider and trainer can be a helpful first step to creating your own hydration and nutrition plan.
On the big day, some experts suggest drinking about 16 ounces of water or other fluid an hour before the race begins. Avoid caffeine, which is a diuretic and could increase the urge to urinate. At this point, you may want to stop fluid intake until after the race begins, giving you an opportunity to use the restroom a final time.
During your race, drinking small amounts frequently rather than large gulps less frequently helps your body absorb the liquid better. A common rule of thumb is hydrating every 15 to 20 minutes. Most marathons, such as the annual Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott, have water stops along the course. Some runners like to carry their own water bottle, edible water pods or water packs. Experiment with your options well before the day of the race to determine which works best for you.
When the race is over, remember to rehydrate regularly with water, a sports drink containing electrolytes, or other fluids. The effects of dehydration can be felt hours after a race, often as a result of forgetting to hydrate properly after the race is finished. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, muscle cramping and dizziness. It’s also a good idea to check your urine after the race. If it is dark, it may be a sign that you need to drink more fluids.
Most runners develop their nutrition and hydration plans while training in the weeks, months and years before a race. They rely on the advice of their healthcare provider, trainer, suggestions from fellow athletes, and their own judgment to make the choices that are right for them. Just like running shoes, there’s no one size fits all, but these guidelines may help you get you started.