At its basic level, hydration is simple. Feel thirsty after a run? Drink something. Heading into an epic meeting? Bring along a water bottle. Despite this simplicity, there's an ocean of misleading information out there that leaves runners confused. Eight glasses a day, or not? Drink before you're thirsty, or only when thirst hits? Does coffee really dehydrate you?
Knowing the answers is vital, since hydration is key to your performance. We dove below the surface of some myths to uncover the facts and make the truth about hydration as crystal clear as the water you drink.
Myth: Drink eight glasses of water a day.
Truth: You do need a healthy dose of hydration daily, but how much is an individual thing. The eight glasses a day is totally arbitrary. Everybody, especially athletes, has different needs. Experts' guidelines are more specific, recommending 91 ounces per day for women and 120 for men. But it is noted that the vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.
Myth: Pee clear to be hydrated.
Truth: Clear urine is a bit excessive. As long as it is a pale yellow, like lemonade, you're hydrated. If it's completely clear, it just means you're full to the brim; what's going in is coming out. On the other hand, if your pee is the color of apple juice or darker, or particularly smelly, you need to drink up.
Myth: Caffeine dehydrates you.
Truth: While caffeine provides a performance-boosting edge, it also acts as a diuretic, right? Not exactly. Recent research shows that caffeine doses between 250 and 300 milligrams—about two cups of coffee—will minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consuming it. But the research also shows that exercise seems to negate those effects. If you run within one to two hours of drinking coffee, you don't pee more.
Myth: Thirst isn't a good hydration tool.
Truth: Thirst is definitely a very strong predictor of hydration needs—and some experts would argue it's the only one you need. Our thirst mechanism is pretty accurate. But it's always a good idea to have some other methods to ensure you're hydrated. Knowing your sweat rate is one way to track your needs, particularly for long runs.
Myth: Pure water is best for hydration.
Truth: Although water is a great way to hydrate, it may not be the best choice in all situations. For an easy, hour-long run on a coolish day, sipping water is fine. But if you're running 10 miles on an August morning and are a salty sweater (you have white salt streaks on your face or clothes postrun), you need to ingest some sodium as well. Salt helps you retain water. You're less likely to pee it out.
Myth: You can't drink too much.
Truth: You absolutely can drink too much, and it can be deadly. Too much water can cause symptomatic hyponatremia, a condition where the sodium levels in the blood become dangerously low. Certain groups are more prone to it, including smaller runners; those who finish marathons in more than four hours; and those who do a significant amount of walking and running in cooler weather (when your sweat rate isn't as intense as it is on warm days). For recreational runners, the best way to prevent hyponatremia is to listen to your thirst.
Myth: Drinking lots of water is a good way to "detox."
Truth: There is no evidence that excess water makes your body more clean. If anything, drinking too much water can slightly impair the ability of the kidneys to filter blood. Only people who should drink more water with a focus on their kidneys are those who have had kidney stones.
Myth: Staying hydrated eliminates your risk of heat stroke.
Truth: Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition where your body temperature rises above 104 degrees. Dehydration can make you more prone to it. People who are dehydrated are hotter. In fact, a study determined that for every one percent of body mass lost through sweat, your body temperature increases by half a degree, which makes hydration hugely important for preventing heat stroke.
Source: Runner's World
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