Smart Running/Running Science: Proper Hydration

Hydration is important for everyone, but for runners, who spend hours sweating and exerting themselves outside, hydration is everything. Most runners wouldn’t be caught dead without their reusable water bottle by their side, constantly sipping at it throughout the day. However, many people do not know how to properly hydrate. Runners can’t simply drink a gallon of water at one time and expect to be well hydrated. They can’t only drink when running. Proper hydration is a calculated science that takes time and effort to execute.

The effects of dehydration are severe. From diarrhea to lightheadedness to headaches, the countless symptoms are painful and damaging. In running and other sports, dehydration has strong detrimental effects on physical capabilities. Outside of physical activity, it causes fatigue and inhibits mental abilities as well. Clearly, it’s important to drink a lot of water.

clean clear cold drink
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However, it’s also necessary to realize that it’s possible to drink too much water. As Mary Jo DiLonardo explains on WebMD, drinking too much too fast can cause hyponatremia, or water intoxication. This is when your blood sodium level drops too low due to excessive water consumption essentially diluting your blood with water. When it occurs, hyponatremia is severe and sometimes even fatal. Luckily, it can only occur if you drink way too much water: gallons of it at least. To get water intoxication, you would have to drink more water than your kidneys could filter out of your bloodstream.

Even in large amounts that don’t cause hyponatremia, drinking water is not always productive. According to an article by Explained Health, your body can absorb 400-600ml of water per hour. Any excess water is excreted in your urine. To avoid dehydration, it is best to drink water consistently throughout the day, because even if you drink a lot of water when you are thirsty, you can only absorb a certain amount at that time.

Most people don’t drink enough water or don’t drink water often enough. In an article for Medical Daily, John Ericson noted that 75% of Americans fail to drink the 10 cups per day recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Instead, people tend to drink a lot of soda and other unhealthy beverages. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soda as well as alcoholic beverages such as beer may actually contribute to the problem of dehydration. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics meaning that they inhibit the reabsorption of water through your kidneys causing an increase in urine. Instead of retaining liquid for hydration, these substances can actually cause your body to lose water.

The lesson to be learned is simple; drink a lot of water but not too much.

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