Stay hydrated! Drink 8 glasses of water a day! If you feel thirsty then it’s already too late!
These are the things we are always told by our doctors, moms, well meaning Internet articles. But how does one hydrate when water is so, well umm, boring? As a runner, of course it is important to stay properly hydrated, but is filling my tumbler 8 times a day at the tap really necessary?
The answer is; It depends.
Annoying, I know, but it really does depend on the individual: how big someone is, how much someone runs, how hot the day is. There is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to hydration. But, since I get asked a lot about how & what I drink, I figured I’d hash it all out here. And, being Taper Time, it seems especially poignant to discuss hydration as the marathon approaches.
This is my basic beverage line-up. I did forget to toss in a can of seltzer water (I usually drink La Croix). I don’t drink soda, so seltzer water is my go-to for bubbles when I’m feeling festive or fun.
I should also note that I don’t consume very much liquid while running or working out. I bring a water bottle to the track, but rarely stop for it, and only bother with my hydration pack on runs longer than 15 miles and only sip at it at the mile marks, consuming a half a liter or less in the course of 20 miles. My hydration (and rehydration) comes before & after running. I do weigh myself before & after long training runs and on hot days to ensure adequate water replacement.
My biggest tips for hydration and beverages would be:
1. Don’t worry calories, but make sure those calories count. I stay away from sugary drinks (no soda, no added sugar in juices, only unsweetened almond milk). It’s okay to drink milk or juice, just make sure it is quality.
2. Read the ingredients. Again, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, fake colorings, & additives are not healthy and not worth the “flavor”. Stick to real ingredients.
3. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum.
Every morning I start with a cup of coffee, and if I’m lucky and not distracted too much with animals, chores, or kids, I get to drink it all while it’s still hot. I save it for after a morning run, or make sure to get an hour between the last sip & hitting the pavement to avoid the need to make a pit-stop. I have found that the caffeine doesn’t help with my performance or the wake-up process, but that could be because I am just desensitized to it. I don’t get headaches if I skip it, but I really look forward to the warmth of it after a long run in the cold.
After workouts, and after the coffee, I make sure my big 22oz Ninja Tumbler gets filled up with fresh water and cucumbers. Sometimes I do lemon slices or berries, but usually just a few rounds of cucumber. I have found that I drink far more water if there is stuff in it. I’ll refill this bad boy two or three more times (fruit can be reused throughout the day without the flavor being altered) before the day is through. If it is a particularly hot day, a long run, or an intense workout, I’ll refill my very well-loved sports bottle with Emergen-C Electro-Mix powder and a liter of water. I love this stuff! Unlike Gatorade or PowerAde, it doesn’t have weird coloring or flavors. It has a slight lemon taste – that’s it! It contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium, but not the sugars and garbage of other sports drinks. This is my go-to for electrolyte replacement and I drink it every other day during taper week, the night before a marathon and half of the bottle before the start of a race. Because it doesn’t have sugars (i.e. fuel), I wouldn’t recommend using it in place of typical sports drinks during a marathon. I have used it successfully on very long runs, but always use the drink available on race courses because they contain carbohydrates.
With my lunch I go with a green juice. I like the VitaLife brand because I can get it at Aldi. It has all the veggies and then some and makes me feel like I’m doing something good for myself. I am aware that it is probably just a placebo effect, but I do think that since beginning my regimen of 8oz a day of green juice that I’ve done fairly well in not catching colds. Plus, I really like the taste. And, kind of like a multivitamin, I think it helps to fill in any gaps I may have missed nutritionally that day.
In the late afternoons, around the time the bus drops the kids off, I sometimes feel the need for a warm pick-me-up. I like to take about 15-20 minutes to just sit in the last few moments of quiet and meditate with a warm beverage. Sometimes I’ll make a latte, but if I’m not feeling the espresso I’ll go for my favorite; Teavana’s Matcha Green Tea. I like to make mine as a latte with steamed almond milk and a tiny pinch of sugar. The ritual of stirring the tea along with the comfort of holding on to a warm mug is a wonderful way to ground oneself. Plus it’s loaded with antioxidants, boosts my immune system, and gives me a little energy push.
In the evening, after the kids are in bed and everything has been cleaned up and I finally get to sit down and veg out in front of the TV, I make cup (or two) of peppermint tea. I started drinking peppermint tea to combat my acne (switching to almond milk from cow’s milk wasn’t quite cutting it). The tea made a huge difference within a week as well as helping me calm down at night and sleep better. But I also noticed that the persistent calf cramping went away once I began the tea regimen and soon discovered that peppermint is highly recommended for athletes. It improves heart rate, respiratory function, and blood pressure. It enhances mood and concentration. It works as an anti-inflammatory. It also helps tame irritable bowel syndrome. I will be adding this green gem to my morning routine as well in place of coffee. I also look forward to drinking it iced in the summer.
I consume roughly 82-100 oz of liquid a day (more in the warmer months), but as you can see it is not all just plain, boring water. And it has all become a bit of a ritual for me with certain beverages at certain times throughout the day. All liquid counts! I attempted the 8 8oz glasses of water a day as an experiment last fall and simply felt bloated and constantly ran to the toilet. Plus it was mentally hard to push through and drink that much water. But when I sat back and looked at what I actually did drink, I decided not to worry so much. I am definitely hitting the hydration benchmarks, and you probably are too. Don’t stress about what you are drinking and just keep a beverage at hand.