Hydrate Right for Your Type!

When I was logging 18- and 20-mile runs in preparation for my marathon, one of my biggggest problems was on-the-go fueling and hydration. If I knew I had a long run coming up, I could down 24-ounce bottles of water 43 times a day while sitting at my desk (or while running around the restaurant, as was more often the case). But while actually out on the road? I was lucky if I drank one 4oz bottle of water from my fuel belt. I sort of just forgot to drink water. But I also just sort of didn’t know how to incorporate that very important task into my run. If only I had spoken with Elizabeth first! Cause she’s got some great tips…
Hydrate Right for Your Type!
Hydration. I’ve always thought it was a simple concept– drink water. There. That’s it. Make sure you get enough water while being active and you won’t get dehydrated. If you’re going to run a marathon or something crazy like that, drink plenty of water in the days leading up to the race and of course during the race.
After having completed 11 marathons and dozens of races over the course of 5 years, I thought I had this basic concept down. I was always very good about pre-hydrating in the days leading up to marathons and half marathons. But I also noticed that I was “bonking” in hot races sooner and more seriously than other runners. I thought to myself that I must be extra sensitive to the heat. I was drinking plenty of water before and during my races so it couldn’t possibly be dehydration. It was just the heat.
While I may be more sensitive to warm temperatures than the average runner, it wasn’t until June of this year that I realized that I wasn’t actually hydrating effectively. It was a sunny June morning and I had a 10K on tap. It was about about 70 degrees but with the absence of cloud cover, it felt much warmer. I drank plenty of water during the two days leading up to the race. I even drank “Smart Water” which has added electrolytes. I went out a tad too fast, but nothing unreasonable and by mile 5 I was dying. I wanted to stop and walk. My pace decreased by nearly a minute per mile during those last two miles and it took everything I had to keep going and not simply DNF. After the race I wasn’t very coherent. I felt spacey and was acting extremely loopy. My friends who were at the race all told me I looked horrible. They questioned my hydration and I told them that I drank plenty of Smart Water. One of my friends told me that Smart Water wasn’t going to cut it and she handed me an electrolyte tablet for my water. I felt better within about five minutes.
Around the same time, I started training with a coach and reading blogs by runners obsessed with the product “Nuun”– an electrolyte tablet. My coach advised me that I needed to take in more electrolytes with my water because hydration wasn’t just about getting enough water, but allowing the cells to expand so that they could hold as much water as possible. I’ve always known that electrolytes were important, hence the Smart Water. But when I looked closely at the bottle of the Smart Water, it said “electrolytes added for taste.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. I don’t care about taste, I need electrolytes to help my cells hold the water!
I went to my local running store to investigate Nuun and similar electrolyte products. But much to my dismay, they all had the ingredient Sorbitol in them. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that adds flavor without adding calories. Nuun advertises itself as a hydration solution that tastes great– but without the calories of sports drinks. But hello, I am training for a marathon and I NEED the calories. The reason I will not use any product with Sorbitol is because it really upsets my stomach. Check out this article for more information on Sorbitol intolerance, which is not that uncommon. Frankly, it surprises me that a product targeted toward endurance athletes has based its success off of being low-calorie. I understand that runners might not want to be drinking bottle after bottle of sugary Gatorade, but there must be some happy medium.
After much trial and error, I have found three hydration products that work for me in addition to plain ol’ water:
Pedialyte. If they’re giving it to babies, then it’s pretty much guaranteed to be easy on the stomach. In fact, they give that to babies post-diarrhea to re-hydrate them. I drink Pedialyte on race morning and the day before the race if it’s a marathon or half marathon. You can buy it in liquid form, but I prefer the individual packets of powder that you mix into water. I give my coach credit for pointing me in this direction.
Coconut Water. Specifically, Vita Coco brand. Their website claims that Vita Coco is “an all-natural, super-hydrating, nutrient-packed, potassium-stacked, mega-electrolyte coconut water”. I’ve found this to be true and I love the way it tastes. It comes in different flavors like peach mango, pineapple in others, but I prefer to keep it simple and go with the plain flavor. I drink this stuff by the case. It tastes great, it’s healthy, and it’s relatively low in calories. Don’t confuse it with coconut milk. One serving of this stuff has only 45 calories and no fat. I drink this the day before a race. I haven’t tried it on race morning yet because I never know what my stomach will do. Pedialyte is best for race morning and Vita Coco the day before. Of course, I drink plenty of water as well. I especially love coconut water as a recovery drink, post race or long run.
G2. G2 is a watered down version of Gatorade that does not upset my stomach. Regular Gatorade makes me feel nauseous while running– especially that lemon-lime flavor they give you in races.  They always say you should alternate between water and sports drink. Well, if you use G2, you are already getting a half-and-half mixture, but you aren’t missing out on any of the electrolytes. During half marathons and marathons, I carry my own bottle of G2. I pour the G2 in a bottle that’s easy to carry while running and I train with it. I do not like to rely on water stations during races because the sports drink upsets my stomach and even if I just get water, I find that I’m too rushed to properly drink the entire cup. Hydration is important so I make sure I am not dependent on the race to provide it for me.
A final hydration fact that I learned just this year is this: when you take a gel during a race, you need to take it with water. If you don’t take it with water then your body will get water from your cells to help digest the gel and you will get dehydrated. You are not supposed to take gels with sports drink– water is best. I find that taking Gels with G2 works fine for me.
Even though it’s December and the weather is cold, hydration is still very important. Not only will the proper hydration power your runs, but it will also help you recover.
Elizabeth Clor lives in the Washington DC metro area and has been running in races since 2005. She’s completed 13 marathons and 15 half marathons. Her blog, Racing Stripes, can be found at www.elizabethclor.com.
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