There’s always a lot of confusion surrounding what and when to drink when you run through an Austin summer. First things first: Hydration is very important for health in general, and running in one of the hottest parts of the country calls for extra care. For example, did you know that marathon runners (especially those who train in hot climates) are more likely than regular folks to develop kidney stones? Most runners have also heard of a condition called hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. This condition results from drinking too much water and diluting your sodium balance, which can be life-threatening. While rare, it can happen during prolonged endurance events where the athlete drinks too much water, and does not take in any electrolytes.
Now that I have your attention, let’s look at your options.
Number one: For runs of an hour or more, always carry something to drink, whether it’s water or a sports drink. Not only will this help you maintain hydration, but it will help your body maintain core temperature. Ready to Run carries a number of options for running hydration, from hand-helds to waist belts.
Number two: Don’t think that you always need a drink with sugar in it. Sure, we all know how important it is to replace glycogen, but many studies have shown that for regular training runs, simple water will suffice. When you’re in a racing event, go for the sports drink. This strategy has an added bonus: by getting your body used to not constantly topping off the glycogen take while training, you’ll respond better when you toss down sports drinks during races.
That’s when to use sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde, and feel free to drink up at every aid station. But, according to Tara Whiton, an ultrarunner and PhD candidate in East Tennessee State University’s sport physiology and performance department, stay away from “low calorie” (artificial sweetener) type sports drinks.
“Athletes need carbs, so unless you’re getting your fuel from another source or only doing a short workout, these drinks are going to leave you feeling weak after 90 minutes. I don’t think there’s a place for artificial sweeteners in endurance sports,” says Whiton.
Number three: Drink up post run. Make a habit of keeping a water bottle with you at work, and also make a habit of stopping by the water fountain.
“The importance of hydration cannot be overstated, and for most busy runners, it can be hard to remember that water bottle,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, a Washington D.C.-based nutritionist and ultramarathoner.
And finally, the age-old question: How much to drink? The bottom line is that Texas runners training through the heat of the summer should drink at least two to three quarts of fluids during the day to account for the sweat loss. Your body will thank you.
Upcoming races: Saturday, May 27- Smiles for Sammy 5K, 8:00 a.m. at Vista Ridge High School (Cedar Park). Monday, May 29, Stars & Stripes 5K, 8:00 a.m. at Camp Mabry. Monday, May 29, LifeTime Tri Cap Tex, 6:45 a.m., Lady Bird Lake at Auditorium Shores