Keeping the Glass Half Full - Page 2
Electrolytes and Hydration
During long bouts of running, it is crucial to maintain a proper balance between water and electrolyte intake, which plays an important role in muscle, digestive and other bodily systems. Electrolytes are water-soluble ions such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, which are shed from the body in sweat. While modern diets provide sufficient amounts of these minerals for less active individuals, sweat loss from prolonged exercise results in short-term electrolyte deficiencies if they are not replenished during exercise. The most dangerous hydration - electrolyte imbalance, dilutional hyponatremia, is caused by overhydrating while consuming insufficient electrolytes.
Replacing sodium is important once you start replenishing fluids during runs. In warm weather it is typical to consume 400 milligrams of sodium per hour, while 800 milligrams or more may be prudent in hot weather.
Most runners rely on a combination of electrolyte capsules and sports drinks, and must factor in the contribution from each source. Sports drinks have a wide range of sodium (50mg to 200mg) and potassium (15mg to 100mg) content per serving, which can make it difficult to calculate your exact electrolyte intake.
While electrolyte supplementation works well for many runners, there are two ways that you can reduce your electrolyte requirements. First, reduce the amount of electrolytes and, in particular, sodium in your daily diet. It has been shown that over time, a low-sodium diet can lower the concentration of sodium in sweat, which means you require less sodium intake during exercise. Second, regular running in high temperatures reduces the concentration of sodium in sweat. The greatest reduction is seen in those who were not previously heat-acclimated.
Tips for Drinking on the Go
- Drink in small, regular amounts so that you are constantly hydrating yourself and minimizing the likelihood of overfilling your stomach.
- Avoid drinking on short, steep inclines. No matter how practiced you are at drinking on the move, you are still likely to miss a breath or two when you need them most.
- Drink before or at the start of a long downhill. Your body will be better able to process the fluid when you reduce your running effort. However, do not drink too much or your stomach may slosh around uncomfortably.
- If it is hard to carry enough fluids between aid stations, drink the last of your fluids when you are within 10 or 15 minutes of the next station. You will absorb some of these fluids before the aid station and be able to drink more once you reach it.
- Plan to drink at aid stations. On hot days this helps maximize fluid intake while reducing the amount of fluids you need to carry.