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Hydration – fuelling the runner

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 2 min read

All runners know that great hydration matters. When on a run, hydration helps because it slows the rate at which fatigue sets in. From how limber we feel, to how quickly we tire, hydration can be the difference between a sluggish run or a new personal best. Let’s take a look at how it works.

What happens when our hydration dips?

Dehydration starts by changing our blood. As our hydration level falls, so does the amount of oxygen in our blood. Then, with less oxygen to work with, our muscles begin to tighten. For all muscles, less movement means one thing: less force. With less force to work with, we start to feel heavy, and our body begins to look for other energy sources.

Fatigue means that your body is exhausting the energy stores it holds in reserve. Without sufficient hydration, fatigue sets in sooner, and you’ll feel the effects faster.

So I feel bad because I’m dehydrated?

Hydration is about much more than how we feel when on a run. From muscle aches in the morning, to how alert we feel throughout the day, hydration can be a key part of everything we do. Because fatigue is a process, our bodies often need some time to mend. Sometimes, we feel fatigued for days if we haven’t addressed any imbalance.

To replenish key energy sources, the systems in our body carry the right nutrients to where we need them most. Great hydration makes this transport process easy. By widening our veins, and raising the level of oxygen in our blood, hydration has a big impact.

How do I hydrate for the best performance?

How you hydrate matters: just like poor hydration, too much water at once can make a run feel hard. Think about prepping beforehand, what you need along the way, and how you can replenish your body in recovery.

Before going on a long run (10km or more), it’s best to begin hydrating a few days in advance. In the late stages of long runs, a product with glucose can be a helpful boost.

For shorter runs, too much fluid in your system may slow you down. If you hope to have a high-octane run, quality is more important than quantity: glucose and electrolytes are the key.

A gel-pack or hydration salt solution an hour or so before your run will prepare your body for a top performance.

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