Race to the Finish: What Runners Need to Know About Hydration

Hydration is important not only before a race, but during and after as well. Being adequately hydrated for exercise helps prevent heat-related illnesses, muscle cramping, fatigue, and headaches, and it allows your body to function at its highest competitive level. Let’s take a look at a few of my tips and suggestions on hyd-race-tion.

Before the Race:

Pre-race hydration should begin several days prior to your race and should include drinking plenty of water and healthy beverages. Avoid alcoholic and carbonated drinks, as these tend to dehydrate you. One way you can tell whether you are well-hydrated is if you are urinating larger volumes of pale urine.

During the Race:

This part is all about maintenance. Throughout the race, maintain your hydration levels, but also, be cautious not to over-hydrate. If you drink too much during a race, it can lead to gastrointestinal problems and, in extreme cases, hyponatremia, which is a condition wherein the sodium level in your blood stream is abnormally low. The current rule of thumb for race hydration is to drink to your thirst level but no more.

After the Race:

After having completed your run, you should continue to rehydrate until your urine is light yellow. The amount of hydration your body needs will vary depending on several factors, including the intensity of your run, how much sweat you produced, and the heat of the environment in which you were running (ie. indoors vs. outdoors).

Though dehydration can be a serious health hazard, it usually only becomes a threat in exercise lasting more than an hour, so if your workout is shorter, hydration is less of a priority, and you can simply follow the general rule to drink to your thirst level.

You don’t need an appointment to catch me on Twitter! For more women’s health and runners’ tips, follow me @MicheleSchulzMD.