Image Credit: http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Rehydration.jpg
How does one find the right balance then? A person’s hydration needs hinge on various factors, so there is no real formula to pint-point exactly how long you can run without hydrating or how much you need. Nevertheless, there are a few general guidelines that should adequately keep you going.
Several considerations come to mind when determining how long you should play camel. For instance, how far are you running? How long will your run take? How is the weather like? What did you eat before heading out? Even the type of fluid you plan on taking becomes a factor.
There are two main sides to the argument — on one hand, you are advised to listen to your body and drink according to your level of thirst; and on another, you should not wait to feel thirsty before drinking, because the effects of dehydration would have already been set in. This is where you start asking yourself questions like the aforementioned.
If you are going for a casual run, which is anything under 6-7km, you can typically get by without drinking. Of course, it is therefore recommended to carry water with you on distances longer than that.
Dehydration mainly affects performances spanning over an hour, so while it is still perfectly okay to hydrate within that period, it is not usually necessary, as the salt and electrolytes stored in your body will be sufficient.
A tip for longer runs is to add some salt into your pre-run meal. This helps maintain the salt level in your body and reduces your chances of getting water intoxication in the event you over-hydrate.
Alternatively, and this is probably a more embraced option, is to swap water for sports drink with some amounts of sodium. As your body loses around 800-1500mg of sodium per hour through sweat, it is important to keep replenishing your depleted salt levels to avoid “hitting the wall” halfway through your run.
Lastly, if you are living in sunny Singapore or if you anticipate a hot and humid run, it is always better to bring some liquids for good measure, because you will lose more water and salt.
If you prefer having following a near-exact gauge, experts recommend drinking 90-180ml of fluids every 15 minutes for runs lasting more than an hour. This is not without its benefits, as it further reduces the chances of you over-hydrating compared to your own estimation.
There are also tests that you can conduct to determine if you have been drinking too much or too little during your runs. One of them is called the sweat test, a measure of your weight loss pre- and post-run. If it is more than 2% of your body weight, it means you have to drink more.
Most runners still tend to go by their instincts, for the simple fact that only they know their bodies best. What if it takes you under an hour to run over 10km; would that not cause a rethink in your hydration plans?
Sure, there are rough guidelines to help determine your threshold, like tips to maintain your salt levels, but the hassle-free method remains the most ideal — drink as your thirst dictates, but know when to stop filling up.
"Most runners still tend to go by their instincts, for the simple fact that only they know their bodies best."
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