Marathon Training – Beyond the Miles: HYDRATION

This year I’m hoping to tackle some BIG running goals and in order to meet them I am prepared to do everything that it takes. There is a lot more to it than running and over the next 15 weeks I am taking a closer look at a few things that I need to do better at as a runner.

Today we are taking a look at hydration. Water intake and hydration levels can really affect the body and running performance so I am really looking forward to improving on this aspect of my health.

Let’s get to it!

Why is hydration important?

My favorite quote that I’ve heard about hydration is “hydration is important because the body is comprised mostly of water” (Larry Kenney, PhD). I had never really thought of it that way before but it really is a good way to look at it.

Proper water levels are essential for helping to remove waste in your urine, keeping your body temperature stable, maintaining your blood pressure, and regulating a lot of IMPORTANT activities in your body’s cells!

How much do I have to drink to stay hydrated?

We’ve all heard the 8 glasses a day rule but that advice has always confused me. What exactly is a glass? How does my physical activity affect my hydration needs? Is water the only thing that counts here?

So I did a little research. I found a website that will supposedly calculate your fluid needs so I typed in my stats and pressed enter. My recommended fluid intake came back as 94 OUNCES! I could hardly believe it until I discovered that, according to Runners World, The Institute of Medicine recommends females to drink 91 ounces of water per day (120 oz for men)!

That is much more than I thought and at first I was intimidated by that number. But here’s the good news… any liquid that you drink during the day (excluding alcohol) counts towards your fluid intake – yes even that cup of coffee!

Wow, that’s a lot of water! How do I make sure I drink as much as I should?

Track your intake! I’ve been using the water tracker feature on my FitBit App for about a week and it really motivates me to reach the daily goal! If you don’t have a FitBit check out Apple’s list of Top 25 Apps for Tracking Water Intake.

FitBit Water Tracker

Also, invest in a reusable water bottle. I love this Camelbak one that I currently use.

Camelbak water bottle

I bring it with me everywhere that I go and its always sitting on my desk at work. Having water readily available makes it easier to just take sips throughout the day. My best tip is to find a water bottle that you LOVE and will want to have by your side 24/7!

How do I know if I’m hydrated or not?

The easiest way to stay hydrated is to monitor your thirst and your urine color. Thirst is actually a really good indicator of when you need to hydrate, so make sure to be listening to your body!

Your urine color is another important think to pay attention to. In college the bathroom in the athletic trainers’ office had this poster in it and it always made me laugh (seriously, I can’t imagine someone being at a 7 or an 8 on this chart without thinking something was wrong) but this is actually a really helpful tool. Make sure you are staying in the 1-3 range!

What is the best thing to drink?

For years I was convinced that the best and only thing to drink was water. I didn’t want to “drink calories” but sometimes you need more than water! During an easy run and throughout the day water is your best bet, but if you just ran a hard workout in 90 degree heat and were really sweating then you need to replace those electrolytes you just lost!

My current favorite are these little pouches of Gatorade powder. They are perfect for me because traditional Gatorade is too sweet for me so I can make these with a little extra water than recommended and its just the way I like it!

G2 Powder

If you would rather stick to water these Salt Stick Caps are a great option. They are little pills that you take with water and have all the electrolytes and things that you need to replace after a sweaty run. I recently heard about these from a friend-of-a-friend and they really are great before, during and afer long runs. Sometimes my tummy is just NOT in the mood for the sugary sweetness of sports drinks and that’s when I turn to these!

photo 4 (86)

How does hydration/dehydration affect my running?

Dehydration causes all of the following (see here for more information)…

  1. Reduced blood volume
  2. Decreased skin blood flow
  3. Decreased sweat rate
  4. Decreased sweat rate
  5. Decreased heat dissipation
  6. Increased core temperature
  7. Increased rate of muscle glycogen use (you use up all of your fuel faster!)
  8. Reduced maximal cardiac output (your heart doesn’t pump as hard)
  9. Decreased VO2 Max

Needless to say, it is really important for your running to stay hydrated!

Do I really have to drink on my runs?

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to scoff at the idea of drinking on runs – I was “too cool” for that. I don’t know where I got that idea but that’s really what I thought! When I started training for the LA marathon last year I slowly came to terms with the fact that hydrating during my longer runs was necessary!

Once you are dehydrated it takes a lot of effort and time to get your body back to normal. Drinking water/sports drinks on long runs helps to maintain hydration levels so it is really important!

What’s the easiest way to hydrate while running? 

Sometimes it would be nice to have a pit-crew team at different check points on your long runs waiting to give you water, Gatorade, and GU but in lieu of that option you’ll have to bring your hydration along with you.

When I first started hydrating on runs I “borrowed” my mom’s Fuel Belt. I really like it and it works really well for me. I like that it comes with four bottles. This makes it possible to bring different drinks – I always fill some with water and some with Gatorade.

My only problem with this Fuel Belt is that it doesn’t always stay in place and often chaffed a ring around my belly but all in all this belt is a great option.

Fuel Belt

This Christmas my parents got me a Camelbak Dart!

CamelBak Dart

I’ve only used it on one long run so far but I already LOVE it! It is so comfortable that I almost forgot that I was wearing it. Its also nice that you don’t have to fumble with getting the bottles in and out of a belt.

Drinking from the Dart

Hands-free hydration!

I hope that you now know a little bit more about hydration and feel equipped to implement smart hydration techniques into  your training.

And just for fun… here’s a bunch of flavored water recipes that I recently found on Pinterest!

Any awesome water bottles that you would recommend?

Do you drink flavored water? If so, what’s your favorite recipe?

I just started drinking flavored water a few months ago. My current favorite is lime with mint, but I can’t wait to try the Blackberry-Sage recipe above!

Do you have any other questions about hydration that I didn’t cover?

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13 thoughts on “Marathon Training – Beyond the Miles: HYDRATION

  1. These are all great questions. I naturally drink a lot of water because I don’t like any other drinks besides hot chocolate which is made with water but people think I’m nuts for carrying my Sigg everywhere I go. I’m literally “the girl with the water bottle” in all my friend groups. But hey, it will make me healthier and a better athlete! I do think we have to be careful though. My mom ended up hospitalized awhile ago for drinking too much water (like 10+ Poland springs bottles a day) and not enough salt to counteract it. Ever since then I’ve been careful to balance it.

  2. This is a great post, thank you! I have a LifeFactory glass water bottle that I’ve carried around with me everywhere for about two years. I feel lost when I don’t have it with me!

  3. You are right that hydration is so so important! My husband gave me a hydration belt as my graduation present and then a camelback backpack for Christmas, so I am all set! I can’t wait to go on my first real long run soon so I can test them both out! How do you like to fuel in your long runs?

    • My favorite long run fuel is Clif Shot Blocks, just because I really don’t like GU. I’m currently experimenting with other types of more natural fuel mid-run but those are hard to carry along. A whole post about mid-run fueling is in the works! 🙂

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