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The myriad of repercussions brought about by dehydration makes it one of the worst nemesis for runners. The lack of a proper hydration plan places marathoners at risk of exposure to injuries and performance deterioration, as such, it is paramount to ensure the regulation of proper fluid intake before signs of dehydration even set in. It is generally acknowledged that, “Once you feel the thirst, you are already dehydrated.” However, this does not warrant the need to chug down bottles of water, as over hydration can result in damages to ones health as well.
Essentially, water helps to facilitate the ease of blood flow to and from the heart as it is being circulated around the body, transporting oxygen and nutrients to muscles so as to keep performance at its peak. A dehydrated state can increase the viscosity of the blood, thereby requiring the heart to work harder in the course of pumping blood to the rest of the body.
Signs & symptoms of dehydration
- Dry eyes / mouth
- Abdominal discomfort
- Muscle cramps / spasms
- Deterioration in performance (sluggishness and lethargy)
- Urine is dark yellowish with decrease in passing
- Increased thirst
If such issues are not addressed promptly, dehydration symptoms tend to escalate rapidly, resulting in worsened conditions such as seizure, fainting spells, heat stroke or even coma.
Adopting a hydration strategy to maintain peak marathon performance
Keeping the body hydrated by drinking adequately must be a daily habit. On the contrary, last minute chugging of water, pre-race or just before a long run, can have counterproductive, performance impeding effects. In general, a good indication of the state of hydration can be interpreted from the color of the urine - clear indicates ample hydration whilst dark (yellowish) color spells the onset of dehydration.
Avoid alcoholic drinks days before the run, alcohol not only dehydrates the body, it can also disrupt and deprives restful sleep patterns. Fill up about 400 to 500 mls of water approximately an hour leading up to the run and consider downing another 200 mls before the start.
During the Run
Fluid replenishment is crucial on 15 – 20 mins intervals while covering the distance. In organized marathons, water stations tend to be able to serve this purpose, but donning hydration belts or vests can be good tools to ensure consistent re-hydration on the move.
On the other hand, during long training runs, other than carrying the mentioned hydration peripherals, it would be beneficial to pre-plan the running route to include as many available water fountains along the way as possible.
It is generally advised to drink about 650 mls of water for every 500g of body weight lost (as sweat). If there are means to do so, carry out a pre and post run weigh-in, determine the weight difference and drink up the required. Drinking adequately after a grueling run is important as it regulates the body temperature and facilitates good blood circulation for faster recovery.
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)