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The Importance of Hydration: Before, During, and After a Run

Elaine Standohar's picture
Hydration during Running

A lot of things influence personal performance during a run. A healthy diet, consistent training, adequate sleep, appropriate clothing & gear, and proper form name some of the factors that have the potential to help or hinder running performance. With the heat of summer in full swing, sufficient hydration is pivotal in maintaining efficient and continually successful runs. This includes keeping your body hydrated before a run, during a run, and even after the completion of one.

Pre-Run: Hydration is important before you begin a run because a dehydrated body is at a strong performance disadvantage. Muscle tissue is composed of 70% water. If the cells that make up the muscles in your legs, abs, back, and arms are dehydrated, they will not be able to perform properly or meet the physical demands of a 30+ minute run. Form will suffer, premature muscle cramps and/or fatigue will be experienced, and PR’s will be difficult to beat.

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Pre-Run Continued: Additionally, cardiovascular strain is a serious risk and side effect of running when insufficiently hydrated. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume. This adds to the already increased physical demand of the heart while engaged in a run. Not only does the heart have to beat faster to meet the muscle’s increased need for oxygen, but it also needs to work harder to push the thicker (dehydrated) blood though the body’s arteries, veins, and capillaries.

During-Run: Mid-run hydration is vital to optimal performance. The recommended amount of fluid intake during a run depends on the length of time and distance you plan on running.

  • Three to six ounces of fluid after the first 15 minutes of a 20-30 minute run.
  • Four to six ounces of fluid, consider a sports drink, every 20 minutes during a run that lasts anywhere from one to four hours long.
  • Four to six ounces of fluid, preferably a sports drink, every 20 minutes during a run that extends beyond four hours. * It is important to listen to your body during a run of this duration. If you feel thirsty, drink more.

Post-Run: When you complete a run, it is also important to continue your hydration efforts. Drink 20-24 ounces of water or sports drink shortly after the conclusion of a run. This will help to prevent post-run muscle cramps and soreness, fatigue, headaches, and heatstroke (during the warmer summer months). You want to hydrate enough so that when you go to the bathroom for the first time after a run, your urine is pale yellow, or resembling the color of a light lemonade.



Excellent tips.
Great tips! Sometimes people forget about pre-run hydration.
I see many people over-hydrating. It's almost like a nervous habit for them before a race. This only serves to wash electrolytes out of their system. Then they think that they need electrolyte tablets as well. It's a vicious circle.