Dehydration can ruin your running performance and sometimes your health. It can lead to weakness, illness, and injury, and significantly reduce your performance.
If you’re running around the block, you can get away with waiting until you’re home to drink. But on longer runs, hydration isn’t always close at hand.
Today we’re bringing you 8 tips for staying hydrated while running. If you’re serious about running, you need to serious about your hydration. And even if you’re not serious, you still need to stay hydrated on long runs.
The next step is to choose how you’d prefer to carry your water. From there, you should find a solution that suits you!
We’ll be going into detail about how to hydrate for various distances and what you should be drinking when you run. Keep reading!
How Much Should I Hydrate Before, During, And After A Run?
We all know that hydration is a crucial part of health and fitness. But how do you know if you’re hydrated enough or if you need more?
Ultimately, it depends on a few things. If you’re running in the heat, chances are you’ll be sweating more which means you’ll need to replenish fluids more often. If you aren’t sweating as much, you’ll need less hydration.
Probably the biggest factor is how long your run is. If you’re going for a quick 30-minute run in cool weather, you can get away with no hydration on the road as long as you pre-hydrate and rehydrate afterwards.
Anything longer than that will most likely need fluids while on the road. Shorter runs in hot weather may still need water. It’s a good idea to invest in a hydration belt just to make sure you have something with you at all times.
Let’s get into the detail of how to hydrate for a run of around 45 minutes or longer.
Basic Guidelines for a Run of 45 Minutes or Longer
Regardless of the weather, if you’re going to be running for 45 minutes or longer, you’ll need to carry water with you.
If you let yourself become dehydrated, your performance will suffer and you may end up feeling exhausted and ill.
Before You Run
It’s a good idea not to drink immediately before you go for a run. Not only is there a chance of you feeling that uncomfortable sloshing feeling in your stomach, but it’s also hard to run at your best if you start feeling like you need the bathroom!
Start hydrating about 2 hours before you plan to run. 17 to 20 ounces of water is a good volume to aim for at this time. That way, your body will be well-hydrated when you set foot on the road or trail.
If you want a great, energetic start to your run, you may opt for a sports drink around an hour before your run. Sports drinks deliver an easily-absorbed shot of carbs and electrolytes so you’re well-fueled for longer exercise bouts.
During Your Run
Once you’re on the road, don’t wait until you feel thirsty to take a drink. If you have a smartwatch with an alarm or beep function, set it to make a sound at 10 to 20-minute intervals.
To maintain hydration, drink 5 to 10 ounces of water every time your watch beeps. If you don’t have a watch or something to remind you, you’ll need to remain aware of time so you can take a drink every 10 or 20 minutes.
Even if you’re only taking a short run, you may want to carry some water with you to keep you fresh and hydrated.
Sports drinks are excellent for replenishing electrolytes if you aren’t using an electrolyte supplement. Most of them come in small packets and are easy to add to your water bottle so you can sip on them like you would your normal water.
After Your Run
Don’t forget about hydrating after your run too! Hydrating post-run helps your fluid levels to return to normal so you can recover faster.
Try to drink around 20 ounces of water within the hour after returning from your run. You don’t need to drink it all at once; sipping on it throughout the hour should get your fluid levels back to normal.
What to Drink
Water is the best choice to hydrate you, before, during, and after your runs. But if you’re running for more than 30 minutes, you’ll be losing a significant amount of electrolytes when you sweat.
Water can’t replace electrolytes. But sports drinks are designed to do just that. During longer races, a sports drink is a good idea, unless you’re using an electrolyte tablet, gel, or chew that contains a decent amount of electrolytes.
What Exactly are Sports Drinks?
Don’t confuse sports drinks with sugar-loaded energy drinks you find in the store! Sports drinks have been carefully designed to provide a good dose of electrolytes, caffeine, carbohydrates, and/or protein, depending on your needs.
All sports drinks contain electrolytes. Drinking a sports drink will help to replenish the electrolytes you lose when sweating. The electrolytes you should look for in a sports drink are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Generally, drinks that only contain electrolytes are very low in calories. If you want a drink that contains carbs, they usually contain around 100 calories and 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates in the form of easily absorbed sugars.
Many brands have a variety of flavors. Caffeine content often varies by flavor, so before switching to a new flavor double-check whether or not it contains caffeine. Some runners may be sensitive to it and feel jittery or twitchy.
Most sports drinks come in powder form. You simply add this powder to your bottle of water to make an electrolyte-rich drink. This can be a helpful alternative to gels or chews for those who may have trouble stomaching them.
Recovery Drinks for After the Run
If you wish to drink a sports drink after your run to replace electrolytes, choose one with protein in it. These are designed to help with muscle recovery and get you back to optimal condition as soon as possible.
You can drink a protein sports drink while running, but it will be more beneficial after your exercise.
Tips for Staying Hydrated While Running
Here are the top tips for staying sufficiently hydrated while you’re running.
1. Drink 10 to 20 Ounces Every 10 to 20 Minutes
Consistency is important for maintaining hydration. If you drink too much in one go, it can leave you feeling too full and uncomfortable. If you don’t drink enough, your performance can suffer.
10 to 20 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes is a good amount to aim for. It’s not an exact science, but you don’t want to wait until you’re thirsty to take a sip.
If you’re worried about not drinking often enough, set a quick alarm on your watch or phone to recur every 10 minutes or so. If this becomes too difficult, you’ll need to spend a few runs working on taking a sip every 15 minutes or so.
2. Consume Plenty of Electrolytes
Water is important, but electrolytes are just as crucial. If you’re using a sports drink, you should be replenishing your electrolytes quite well.
Electrolyte tablets serve the same sort of purpose as sports drinks. You just drop them into your drink and they’ll give your water a light flavor and a big dose of electrolytes.
If you want plain, unflavored water, you may benefit more from energy gels or chews. These are usually high in carbs, and not all of them contain electrolytes, so you’ll need to be selective about which ones you choose.
3. Take Small Sips From a Hydration Pack
If you want a hands-free drinking experience, a hydration pack is an excellent solution. Some runners will avoid taking water on long runs purely because they don’t like holding a water bottle while running!
A hydration belt could be a solution, but you’ll still have to take the water bottle out of its holder to drink. A hydration pack is a vest that contains a large amount of water (60 to 100 ounces), and can be used with a long straw, making it completely hands-free and easy.
4. Limit Caffeine & Alcohol
Caffeine may be a great energy booster, but it’s also a mild diuretic. This means ingesting a lot of it without an adequate amount of water can cause dehydration.
A cup of coffee (or 6) is unlikely to dehydrate you because you’re taking in a lot of water at the same time. However, if you’re consuming a gel or chew that contains caffeine, it’s essential to keep your hydration levels high to prevent dehydration.
Alcohol has a stronger diuretic effect than caffeine. Even if you’re drinking a moderate amount, the effects it has on your immune system can hamper performance. We recommend avoiding (or at least limiting) alcohol consumption for a day or so before a long run.
5. Plan your Route
Carrying water can be heavy! 16 ounces of water weighs just over a pound. If you have a running belt with water bottles or you’re carrying a bottle, it may be wise to plan your route to swing by a water fountain where you can refill.
This means you can carry half the amount of water you need for your run, refill when you reach a certain point, and still have enough to see you through. Alternatively, you could plan a looped route that has you running back past your home or car to do a quick refill.
6. Set a Timer
If you don’t have a smartwatch, you’re most likely carrying your phone around with you. It’s easy to zone out while you’re running and forget to drink! Set an alarm to remind you to drink until you’re in a habit.
7. Keep Fluids Accessible
Your water needs to be easy to access while you’re moving. No matter how you’re carrying it, if it’s difficult to get to, you may give up and go thirsty. This can cause dehydration that could be easily avoided by placing your water in a more accessible position.
If you struggle to run while carrying a bottle, invest in a running hydration belt. If you still dislike having to remove the water bottle from the belt to drink, try a hydration pack.
Runners who aren’t used to drinking while on the move may take a few runs to get used to drinking while running. Work on not slowing down while drinking so you can maintain your pace and performance.
8. Don’t Overhydrate
Overhydrating can also be a problem! If you stick to the 10 to 20 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes rule, you should be adequately hydrated.
If you feel thirsty, take small sips and avoid gulping down large amounts of liquid. Drinking too much can make you uncomfortable and slow you down noticeably during your run. It can also throw your electrolyte balance off, which can lead to feeling ill, weak, or nauseous.
Your hydration needs depend on the length of your run. The longer you run, the more hydration you need!
Here are some quick guidelines for different length runs.
Short Runs (1 hour or less) or a Race with Multiple Aid Stations
If you’re running for less than an hour or a longer race that has aid stations, you can get away with a handheld water bottle or race belt that can carry a small amount of water. You can also use an arm pocket or your shorts pockets if it’s not too uncomfortable.
Medium Runs (1 to 3 hours)
Running belts that can hold two bottles should be adequate for this length of a run. If you feel that it’s not enough, you can add a handheld water bottle.
Long Runs (3 hours or more)
Runs of 3 hours or more would benefit most from a hydration pack or running vest. They can typically carry up to 3 times the amount of water of a running belt, and most have the capacity to store water bottles as well.