Here’s an alarming statistic: Studies show that 75% of Americans are walking around dehydrated. If you fall into that category — and you’re a runner — starting a workout in a dehydrated state may mean you are putting yourself in danger.
Dehydration is a much talked about issue in the summer months, but the truth is, you can get dehydrated no matter the weather. Your sweat rate and heat have an impact, of course, but aren’t the only contributing factors.
The recommendations of how many cups you should drink per day often vary, but there is a simple rule of thumb you can follow to help stay hydrated. “Drink when you are thirsty,” states Jess Underhill, a running coach and founder of the Race Pace Run Club.
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
There are some telltale signs of dehydration — and the easiest one to recognize is thirst. Being thirsty may seem like a normal part of everyday life, but you should be drinking enough water throughout the day that you don’t feel the need to chug water to satiate yourself.
“Feeling thirsty happens after you are dehydrated,” explains Dr. Martha Pyron, MD of Medicine in Motion. “You should try to prevent feeling thirsty.”
Other common symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dry eyes, dry mouth, cramps, headache and muscle spasms. Underhill also notes that runners may notice they may stop sweating while on a run when they previously were sweating.
These, of course, are all of the signs of dehydration that you may experience as it sets in, however, it is important to know that there are more serious effects that can be felt should the issue not be addressed as soon as possible.
FEELING THE EFFECTS
You can feel the effects of dehydration long after you first experience symptoms, which can impact your day and, in a runner’s case, any workouts you have planned that day or even that week. The amount of time you’ll notice an impact depends on how severe your dehydration and resulting symptoms were.
REHYDRATING YOUR BODY
Dr. Holt reiterates that you always want to stay hydrated for optimal health and body function, and for runners, this means replenishing fluids after any exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean just drinking water, however.
“It’s important to replace fluid loss and replenish glycogen stores after a run to diminish the impact of dehydration,” adds Underhill.
Though most people are OK to drink just water, if you are running long distances or are new to physical activity, you’ll want to add an electrolyte drink to your hydration routine during and post-run.