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6 Common Hydration Mistakes

Properly hydrating throughout the day can be difficult for runners, particularly when the weather begins to grow warmer.  Listed here are common hydration mistakes that runners make. 

Although sodas are primarily comprised of water, the extra ingredients such as caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colorings can lead to dehydration.  While the diuretic effects of caffeine are debated, the other ingredients can place a burden on your liver and kidneys by requiring dilution with large volumes of water before they can be flushed from the body.  

Beer and Wine
In moderation beer and wine (particularly dark beer and red wine) actually have a number of great benefits for runners.  However, alcoholic beverages that are higher than 4% alcohol by volume have an extreme diuretic effect.  Therefore, each alcoholic beverage you consume should be followed with an equal amount of water in order to counteract this dehydrating effect. 

Not Replacing Electrolytes
Even if you do a great job replenishing your hydration stores post-run with water or light-colored beverages, such as tea, you still might not be hydrating properly.  When athletes sweat, they lose necessary nutrients such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  Therefore, runners should do their best to replenish these electrolytes by consuming mineral-rich beverages.  Sports drink, bone broth, and fresh fruit are all great options for electrolyte replenishment. 

Drinking too much Water
Did you know that too much water can be detrimental, as well?  Just as failing to replenish electrolytes can cause problems, drinking too much water can be just as bad.  When large volumes of water are consumed, electrolyte levels are diluted.  This phenomenon is particularly dangerous when sodium stores become too dilute, which can affect neurologic function.

Waiting Until You’re Thirsty
Another common mistake that runners make is failing to drink water until they are thirsty.  By the time our bodies remind us to drink, it is already too late.  A better alternative is to calculate your sweat rate and drink towards that number throughout any aerobic activity that lasts longer than 60 minutes. 

Not Having a Hydration Plan
Finally, one of the worst mistakes that a runner can make is to not have a hydration plan.  This mistake can occur in any situation, including at work, after an easy run, or during a race.  Throughout the work day make sure you have access to fresh water or light-colored beverages and to supplement your coffee and black tea intake with water.  If necessary, set a watch or phone alarm every hour as a reminder to drink.  Always pack a bottle of water or a hydration pack for your run, as well, no matter how short or easy you intend to run.  Finally – and perhaps most importantly – study the race map ahead of time before any event lasting more than an hour.  Determine when, where, and how you will consume liquids during the race in order to avoid performance inhibiting dehydration.