Tara Gidus

Hydration 101: What To Drink?

Living in Florida we experience on a daily basis how hydration can directly impact running performance, especially when the humidity rises in the summer months! Yuck. Minimal decreases in body weight while running (1-2 percent sweat loss) can impact endurance and severe dehydration can be grounds for heat related illness. But why does this hydration thing have to be so complicated? The answer, it doesn’t.

Keeping fluid levels in check during a run is not as complicated or as scary as people make it out to be. So here is the low down: When you run, you sweat. When you sweat, you lose water and precious electrolytes that allow your muscles to fire with every stride. What is lost in sweat needs to be replenished to prevent any decrease in performance and prevent heat related illness. The other dilemma: what to hydrate with?

Here are some options you may choose to hydrate with before, during or after a run:

  • Water. Up to 70 percent of our body is water. Water is essential to human life so staying hydrated during a run is crucial. Water hydrates just fine for shorter runs and is what you should drink throughout the day. If exercising in hot conditions, or if you’re out for more than an hour, your best bet is to use sports drinks.

  • Coconut Water. Coconut water is a great low carbohydrate, naturally sweet, and a nutrient rich choice to replace lost fluids and replenish potassium. (Note: most people don’t meet 50 percent of their potassium needs). I love adding coconut water to my pre or post-workout smoothie made with fresh fruit and salt to get all the nutrients I need.  It does not, however, contain enough sodium to be the sole source of fluid during a long run. 

  • Chocolate Milk. This kiddie favorite is great to grab right after a run to promote recovery. Drinking chocolate milk post-run contains the amino acid leucine needed for muscle protein synthesis. Chocolate milk also restores the carbohydrates used to fuel muscles during a run and contains vitamin D and calcium needed for bone health.

  • Sports Drinks. Commercial sports drinks are good for supplying electrolytes and fueling muscles with carbohydrates to aid in hydration and prevent dehydration related muscle cramps. Consume sports drinks during workouts lasting longer than an hour by taking a few gulps every 15 minutes.

  • High Electrolyte Drinks. This new breed of sports drinks contains extra electrolytes for heavy sweaters and endurance athletes. I like to use these products during my long training runs and races.

  • 100% Fruit Juice. Choosing to hydrate with fruit juice right before or during a run is not optimal because the concentration of carbs in the liquid causes it to be absorbed slower and can cause stomach upset with activity. However, 100% fruit juices do have anti-inflammatory compounds that can promote recovery, so drink them post workout to recover faster and rehydrate.  

With this knowledge you can arm yourself with the hydration tools you need to power through those long training runs in the dead of summer. And, wherever your running adventures take you… HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!

Have any questions or comments? Tweet me @DietDivaTara

Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.