A friend recently asked me for some advice on hydration during long runs and racing. She was curious about how much water/sports beverage she should take in during training and an upcoming half marathon, so I thought I would share some information I collected in addition to my own personal experience.
Your best defense is a good offense, and this definitely applies to proper hydration. As runners, the goal is to keep ourselves properly hydrated throughout the day. The easiest way to test this is by looking at your pee. Is it almost clear or very light colored? If so, you are keeping yourself well-hydrated. If you see a dark yellow color, you need to be taking in more fluids.
So, how do you know if you should be drinking water or a sports drink?
Generally, for runs under one hour, water is fine for hydration. When you start running longer than one hour, your hydration should come from a sports drink. You will need the sports drink to provide you with carbohydrates and electrolytes. Sports drinks can be Gatorade, Powerade, etc. I started using nuun a couple of weeks ago. I like the nuun because it only contains eight calories but has all the electrolytes you need (I get the necessary carbs from my sport beans). It’s a tablet that you just drop into your water bottle and go.
How much water/sports drink to you need to take in over the course of a run?
You should aim for 5 to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes of your run (source). Personally, I don’t take my water bottle along for runs of five miles or less during the cooler weather. However, if I am on the treadmill or running in warm weather, I definitely do! During longer runs, you can either plan your run around water stops, stash bottles along your route, or invest in a Fuel Belt or similar system for carrying your hydration.