June 14, 2020

How To Hydrate

If there is one thing that’s inevitable when it comes to summer adventures, it’s spending time in hot conditions. Anyone who has trail run for long enough has visited that dark place where you’re cruising along, 17 miles down and 3 miles from the car, the mid-day sun beats down on your exposed neck, your mouth tastes like cotton. You respond to your natural inclination to sip from your flask, but nothing comes out. It’s empty! “UGH” you think, “I should have brought more water, and the grind to the car begins. 

This simple error, bringing a little less water than what you need, can easily derail an amazing day. It’s an easy mistake to make, but there are ways to plan and prevent these things from occurring as frequently. 

Here are our tips to keep you on track with heat and hydration training so you’re ready for your next big adventure run!

Coach Walt is so #hydtrated that he will often lay or swim in his drinking water!!

Coach Walt is so #hydtrated that he will often lay or swim in his drinking water!!

  1. DRINK to THIRST throughout the day. One sure-fire way to avoid starting runs dehydrated is to sip on a glass of water throughout the day. 

  2. HYDRATE BEFORE YOUR RUN – Drink 12-16 oz of water or electrolyte drink within 75 minutes of starting your run. Spreading that consumption out over those 75 minutes, rather than pounding all your fluids right before the run works best. If you over do it, with too many liquids too soon, you may start your run a bit bloated or need to frequently stop for the bathroom.

  3. WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES and WHY should I use a DRINK MIX? Electrolytes are salts. When you sweat during activity, you lose these salts, as well as chloride, magnesium, potassium and calcium (other electrolytes). All of these elements are important to muscle contraction, relaxation and the completion of your run because they help regulate fluid balance in your body! For many athletes, it can be helpful to replace electrolytes lost through sweat during activity from electrolyte drink mix. Be aware that most gels and trail snacks contain tons of salts (electrolytes) and are a fine replacement for drink mixes. For some athletes water can be just as effective when paired with foods that contain salt (sodium). Remember, body composition, your level of training, your sweat rate, humidity, air temperature and a number of other factors can influence your electrolyte needs and balance. During long events of 2 hours or more, aim for 400-500 mg of sodium per hour as a general rule. It’s good to note that because electrolyte drink mixes contain salt (sodium) they will trigger your thirst mechanism and cause you to want to drink more. Pay attention to this response and moderate your drinking accordingly.

  4. VOLUME DURING RUNS depends on each athlete. A good place to start is 16-24 oz of water/electrolyte drink mix per hour. Use training runs over 90 minutes to help determine how much fluid you need. Most athletes who are used to running in the heat don’t need water for runs 90 min or shorter. On especially hot days, be prepared to need more! On cooler days, you may need less, but you will still get dehydrated. Always pay attention to your thirst mechanism. If you feel thirsty, drink! 

  5. FREQUENCY of consumption does not matter as much as doing your best to replace the fluids lost. Do what feels best for you or makes the most sense during your adventure or race. Drinking more on long climbs can help keep your stomach happy, rather than drinking a lot on a steep, fast downhill that may create lots of sloshing and jostling of your stomach. Some athletes prefer to drink every 15-20 minutes, others drink what they need when they feel that they need it. Systematic drinking can lead to overhydration or hyponatremia if you’re not careful, as it can be tough to dial in your timing with effort level and environmental factors. That’s why most experts recommend drinking to thirst instead of a set system. Whatever you prefer to do, make sure you are drinking enough and not restricting. 

  6. DRINK EARLY during long-runs and races, but avoid electrolyte drink mixes with calories during the first hour to ensure your aerobic metabolism kicks.

  7. USE STREAMS AND WATER CROSSINGS as an opportunity to cool off! Dip your buff in the water and put it around your neck. Douse your body with cool liquid! If you are really overheating, jump in! Cool water can help lower your body temperature, increase circulation back to the core and bring the body back into homeostasis. If you feel you have plenty of water, you can liberally douse yourself with what you are carrying throughout your runs.

  8. CARRY A WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM or WATER PURIFICATION tablets (we like Purinize – an easy, one-step system Zoë used for her FKT) for long adventure runs so you can refill your flasks, bottles or bladder whenever you need! Do not rely on just being able to carry everything. Always have a backup plan in case an adventure takes some unknown twists and turns! If you can’t be certain there is water on your adventure run, go out a day before and cache a few extra flasks in a hidden spot along the trail. Mark location with GPS. Water caching is a great alternative to clearing 100s of OZ of water on long adventure runs! 

  9. POST RUN HYDRATION IS CRITICAL so make sure you keep up with drinking after runs. We find coconut water to be great after long runs and races. If you feel you overheated during a long effort, you need to continue to watch your fluid intake for 24-48 hours after the effort. Pay attention to urine color and how frequently you go to the bathroom.

  10. HYDRATION GOALS remain on matching fluids out with fluids in. A 2-3% loss in body weight is fairly normal over the course of a long event, but pay attention to any weight gain or bloating as this can be a serious sign of hyponatremia (overhydration). You can track these gains and losses by weighing yourself nude before and after your runs. For some athletes, this is an effective way of gathering information about how much fluid they need to drink per hour. Anything more than 2-3% loss in weight indicates more fluids needs to be taken in. More than 2-3% gain means you’ve overhydrated. Remember, dipping below 2-3% in loss of weight will result in significant performance decreases, so we want to use this tool to help with performance. 

  11. LIKE EATING you can train your body to tolerate more fluids by practicing drinking during your training runs and long runs over 90 minutes. Your body can become more tolerant of the sloshing and absorb the fluids better, but you have to practice this time and time again. Once you’ve determined what electrolyte drink mix you prefer, or about how much water you need for runs of certain lengths, stick to and continue to practice that specific routine until it becomes second nature.

  12. SODIUM LOSS can result in poor performance in training and racing. This is indicated by a grainy, rough texture on your face, a white rim around your hat, shirt collar or arm pits. This is a sign you may need to add a little extra sodium to your diet to support fluid balance. Aim for foods that are rich in sodium, like olives, but also rich in other micronutrients. When sweat loss is high, you may find yourself craving extra salt. This is also a good indication of needing a little more sodium in your diet!


Up to 60 minutes: No fluids necessary 

60 – 90 minutes: 12-16 oz of water during very hot conditions or on longer trail runs. Water isn’t necessary for everyone during runs of this length, especially if the athlete is well hydrated before starting the run.

90 minutes to 3 hours: For many athletes, this is the perfect duration for race day fueling and hydration practice. Depending on the exact stats of your run, plan for needing at least 16-24 oz of water per hour, including electrolyte drink mix or gels and fun foods that contain sodium to replace electrolytes lost during activity. It’s recommended that you start fueling 1 hour into these longer runs to ensure your aerobic metabolism kicks in early on and you aren’t entirely dependent on carbohydrates throughout the run.

3 hours plus and races/big events: These are where you have to pay the most attention to your hydration and fueling, especially if you’re racing at high intensities. 200-300 calories per hour depending on exactly how you’ve trained with 16-24 oz of water/electrolyte drink per hour. Be prepared to drink more if it’s hotter, or a little less if it’s cool. Pay attention to your thirst mechanism. Focus on rehydrating well for 24-48 hours after big events like this.