As we continue on in our series to make you the best version of your running self (we’ve put up enough posts on this topic that we’re rivaling the number of Air Jordan models that have been released), we’re going to talk about the simplest and most effective way to enhance your running performance.
Quickly, a review of the previous standards and some links for those of you who need to catch up:
A few questions for you:
Are you hydrated? Yes or no? It’s an easy but essential question to answer.
Are you drinking a minimum of 2 to 3 quarts of water each day?
Do you know how to check your hydration status?
How much performance are you leaving on the table by being dehydrated?
Some True Facts Related to Hydration
A 2 percent drop in your optimal hydration level can decrease your VO2 Max power output-the physical capacity that allows you to maintain your race pace from start to finish-by up to 11%!
You sweat out 3 cups of water through your feet every day. The average human loses 3 liters of water per day just perspiring, breathing, and peeing.
Water is the base of the aqueous environment inside of your body that allows a host of functions to occur: oxygen transport (fairly important if you want to breathe while you run), protein resynthesis (for muscle, tendon, cartilage, ligament and fascial repair), and hormone and antibody transport, to name a few. If you’ve got creaky knees from degenerative cartilage and you’re not on-point with your hydration game, you are accelerating the process of grinding your knee cartilage into a fine dust.
When you’re dehydrated while running, your body steals water from your muscles to keep your brain functioning-helpful in terms of keeping you from running into traffic, not so helpful in terms of keeping your muscles functioning properly. Chronic dehydration leads to muscle breakdown and a general loss of energy required to power that running motor of yours.
We’ve talked at length about tissue health and mobility. When you lack adequate hydration, those tissues get stiff, matted down, and stuck together. That quick roll of your ankle as you attempt to side-step a pothole in the sidewalk turns into an ankle ligament tear when those tissues aren’t properly hydrated and supple.
A few simple practices will help you stay hydrated and optimized for running greatness.
First, a simple rule: you need electrolytes to absorb your water. Before you race out a buy the jumbo case of Gatorade at Costco, let me offer an easier, more cost-effective, and healthier approach. When you’re slamming back your Camelback water bottle throughout the day, add a pinch of salt. Otherwise that water will run right through your body instead of being absorbed by your tissues. I prefer Nuun hydration tablets, to add a little flavor to my water. If I don’t have any handy, a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt (just about any brand) does the trick. When you’re eating food, salt your food and drink pure water.
Second, don’t count on the color of your urine to tell you if you’re hydrated. Spend $10 bfor a 100-count of Rapid Response Urine Dipsticks (RRUD). Dr. Stacy Sims has done in depth research into the hydration needs of male and female athletes, and has some specific markers to look for on your RRUD’s:
- Look at the Specific Gravity (SG) marker:
- Fully hydrated status is 1.005 to 1.015
- When you approach 1.020 you’re 1 percent down from normal hydration status and approaching the threshold of a dramatic drop in performance
- When you read 1.025, stop and drink up!
- Leukocytes (LEU) indicate how well you have recovered from your previous training day. No change in color tells you no leukocytes are present. If leukocytes are present, the reagent strip will turn purple, the darker the more leukocytes are present. If this is you, hydrate, eat well, get some extra sleep, take some extra vitamins and minerals, and take note if your resting heart rate is higher than normal. It’s a good idea for you to take the day off from training if you find yourself in this situation.
- Protein (PRO) will show up on the reagent strip in a tint of green. This is normal in the hours following training, but if the strip is green when you retest the next day, you need a lighter day of training or a day off all together.
The basics are the basics for a reason. If you don’t like drinking water, try the hydration tabs. If you refuse to drink water and think you’re immune to the effects of dehydration, we’re going to have to ask you to hand in your Adult Card. Handle yourself. Top-notch hydration practices are essential not just for running but to operate day to day like a normal human being. Drink up!
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