It’s quite obvious that runners need to drink water – both before, during, and after a run. But how much water should runners drink while they’re running? How do you know if you’re drinking too little… And is there such a thing as too much?
Getting your hydration right could be the factor that supercharges your performance. So we’ve compiled a quick guide on determining the optimal amount of water to see you through your runs. Let’s dive in!
Why Hydration Matters
Whether you’re exercising or not, staying well-hydrated is essential for good health. Did you know that 60 to 70 percent of your body is water? The brain comprises between 75 and 95 percent water, and the lungs about 90 percent.
That’s not just coincidence—every major process in the body requires water to work, whether transporting nutrients or removing waste.
Staying hydrated can help you lose weight, improve your skin, keep your brain sharp, and aid in digestion. So it’s easy to see that water is essential for everyday life and health.
But it also plays an important role in your running. Dehydration brings many negative effects that can impact your training.
How Dehydration Can Affect Your Running Performance
Dehydration can quickly begin to lower your running performance. Some signs and symptoms include fatigue, muscle cramps, and loss of coordination.
As well as some nasty physical effects, dehydration can also lead to impaired cognition. A 2% drop in water weight is shown to hurt things like attention span, problem-solving, short-term memory, and coordination.
How Much Water Should Runners Drink?
The right amount of water differs from runner to runner. A 6 foot 4, muscular runner will have different hydration needs to a 5 foot 1 petite woman. The key to figuring it out is to determine your sweat rate, which will give you a good basis on how much to drink.
Determine Your Sweat Rate
To determine your sweat rate, you’ll need to set aside an hour to go for a run. If an hour is too long to run comfortably, stick to 30 minutes and adjust your calculations.
Step one is to weigh yourself before your run, sans clothes if possible, so you don’t have to deal with extra weight from clothing. Take note of this number. Now it’s time to run!
On your run, keep track of how much you drink. When you’re done, weigh yourself again—minus the sweaty clothing. Now for the mathematics.
Subtract your after-run weight from your pre-run weight. This gives you the amount of weight you lost during your run. Let’s say you lost a pound of body weight. Convert that to ounces—in this case, 16 ounces—and that’s the amount of water you lost in sweat.
Add the total amounts of water you drank to that number. Let’s assume you drank 12 ounces of water in total. That means you need 28 ounces—16 + 12—in one hour of running to stay hydrated. That equals 7 ounces every 15 minutes.
It’s a good idea to do one of these runs every few months as the seasons change. Your sweat loss in winter will probably differ from your sweat rate in summer.
Consider the Duration of Your Run
Remember, your individual sweat rate calculation determines how much you lose in one hour. If you’re running for longer or shorter than that, you need to adjust accordingly. Once you know your hourly sweat rate, consider the duration of the run you’re doing to nail down your numbers.
If you plan to run for 30 minutes, divide your final total by 2. If you want to run for 2 hours, double it. And so on. You may need a calculator for some!
Factors That Affect Your Hydration Needs
It’s great to know your individual sweat rate because you can start to cater to your own hydration needs. But it’s also important to know that certain factors can increase your water intake needs, so you’ll need to consider these on top of your sweat rate.
Running Intensity and Duration
We’ve already spoken about duration. But your running intensity also plays a role. If you’re doing an easy run, you’ll most likely sweat less than doing an intense session. You’ll probably need more water during intense runs—you may have to drink every 10 minutes, so taking more water than your sweat rate suggests is a good idea.
You’ll likely sweat more than usual on hot, humid, or windy days. If you’re heading out on a run when the weather is hot, it’s a good idea to take more water than your calculation suggests to account for extra fluid loss through sweat.
This will ensure that you maintain the optimal hydration level while you run.
Heavier people often sweat more as they have more body mass to move. This means the body generates more heat as they’re exercising.
If your body weight has changed significantly since you last did a sweat rate test, you may need to increase your usual water intake. It’s a good idea to do another test to ensure accuracy.
The higher the altitude, the more you’ll at risk of losing water. If you already live and train at a high altitude, you shouldn’t worry too much about this. But this is essential information to know if you’re traveling for a race. Carry more water than you think you need when running at higher altitudes.
The rougher the terrain, the more intense your run will likely be. This can up your water needs, so it’s a good idea to scope out the terrain of your run first if you’re doing a trail run. Rocky terrain means you should consider carrying more water than your sweat rate suggests.
The easiest way to determine your hydration strategy is to go on the duration of your run. If it’s hot, humid, or windy, you might need to adjust these strategies to carry more water than suggested.
Running for 20 to 30 Minutes
Typically, you can avoid carrying water on a short run like this. Ensure you’re well-hydrated when you step out the door and hydrate when you return. But you don’t need to carry a bottle if you only go for a short one.
However, if it’s particularly hot or you’re running hard, you may want to drink more water since you’ll lose more fluids than on those easy runs.
If You’re Running for 30 to 60 Minutes
You’ll need to carry water with you for runs between 30 and 60 minutes. While it’s not typically enough time to become severely dehydrated, you’ll need to drink regularly to perform at your best. Try drinking about 4 to 7 ounces at around 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45 minutes.
You generally don’t need an electrolyte supplement for runs of this length. Fill your bottle with cool, pure water, and you’ll be good to go!
Long Distance Runs That Lasts Longer Than 60 Minutes
If you’re going to be out for longer than 60 minutes, then you should add an electrolyte supplement to your hydration strategy. At this point, your fluid/electrolyte will start becoming unbalanced as you replenish the water you’re losing, not the electrolytes.
An electrolyte imbalance can manifest in unpleasant ways, including severe muscle cramps and sudden-onset nausea. So it’s wise to get ahead of this and add an electrolyte tablet to your water about an hour into your run.
Consider using sports drinks that contain carbohydrates for an energy boost. These are often more helpful for 2+ hours, but they’re worth keeping in mind.
Both sports drinks and electrolytes come in powder or tablet form and can be added to your water.
We recommend avoiding sports drinks loaded with sugar and containing high levels of stimulants like caffeine.
Recognizing the Signs of Dehydration
It’s helpful to know the signs of dehydration so you know how to tell when your body is asking for more hydration. Here’s what you should be looking out for.
Mild early Symptoms
Thirst is the first symptom of mild dehydration. The moment you notice you’re thirsty, it’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated. It’s often also accompanied by a dry mouth feeling and increased fatigue.
As Dehydration Progresses
As your core body temperature increases and you continue to run without adequate hydration, the symptoms of dehydration will progress. You may start to develop a headache, your heart rate will increase, your muscles could start cramping, and you might feel nauseous.
Your running performance will be greatly reduced as you begin to feel fatigued, and you may experience dizziness.
Symptoms of Severe Dehydration
One of the telltale signs of severe dehydration is not sweating. When your body is short on fluid, there’s nothing to sweat out, so pay close attention to your body. If you’ve suddenly become hot and dry, you need to take action to rehydrate immediately.
You might also be urinating less frequently or not at all, although this can be difficult to notice when you’re in the middle of a run. But if you do get a chance to make a quick stop, check your urine color.
The yellow urine can tell you how dehydrated you are, especially as it may range in color from amber or even a dark brownish color. If you notice either of these symptoms, we highly advise cutting your run short and getting fluids in as quickly as possible.
Tips on Staying Hydrated While You Run
Here’s our best advice to help you stay well-hydrated while you run.
Drink Water at Regular Intervals
Take a few sips of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your run; there’s no need to drink every few minutes—but try different intervals to see what works best for you. For some, every 5 minutes might be optimal. For others, every 20 minutes could be good.
If you struggle to remember to sip, you can set an alarm on your smartwatch to remind you to drink. After a few weeks, it should become a habit!
Wear a Hydration Vest or Running Belt
A hydration vest or running belt will allow you to carry more water than just a water bottle. A belt can usually carry a bottle or two, and a vest should be able to carry a hydration bladder as well as a few bottles, upping your volume.
For long runs, you can’t beat a hydration vest. It allows you to carry quite a bit more water than any other carrying method, and it’s also fairly comfortable, giving you a hands-free drinking experience.
Freeze Water Bottles for Long Runs
If you’re going on a long run, you can freeze a bottle of water and take it with you. That way, your water will stay cool throughout the run, and you’ll be able to drink as it melts. Keep in mind that it may feel different to carry a frozen bottle!
But having a sip of cold water on a hot day can be refreshing and help keep you cool.
Plan Your Route Around Water Sources
This is especially important if you’re on a long run and can’t carry enough water with you. If you don’t want to invest in a hydration bladder, the best way to ensure you’ve always got enough water is to plan your route around available water sources.
Water fountains, coffee shops, or even your car could be a stopping point. Remember that if you’re training for time or speed, stopping to refill your water bottle will hamper that.
Maintain hydration: Drink about 5–10 fl. oz. (or a few good long drinks) of water every 15–20 minutes while running. Drink after: Post-exercise hydration gets your fluid levels back to normal and can help with recovery.How much water should a runner be drinking? ›
The idea is to replace that sweat as you lose it. “If you're training for longer than an hour, you should be drinking anywhere from 24 to 32 ounces per hour of your run,” says Ryan Maciel, RD, the head performance-nutrition coach at Precision Nutrition. That's about 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes.What is the best hydration strategy for a marathon? ›
A guideline I like to follow is taking in 3 or 4 long sips of water every 15 or so minutes. On long runs, I'll often fill my hydration pack with water that has a hydration tab mixed in it, called Nuun, which has added electrolytes, like sodium.How do you strategically drink water? ›
- Flavor it. Add fruit to your water. ...
- Tie it into a routine. Drink a glass of water every time you brush your teeth, eat a meal or use the bathroom.
- Eat it. ...
- Track it. ...
- Challenge a friend. ...
- Take it to go. ...
- Alternate your drinks.
A good rule of thumb for athletes is to divide their body weight in half and drink at least an ounce per pound of body weight throughout a typical day (e.g., someone weighing 160 pounds should drink 80 ounces of water a day).Is 1 gallon of water a day enough? ›
“Drinking a gallon of water a day is not really necessary, but it's not going to hurt you either,” says Czerwony. “Everybody's hydration levels are different, but most people don't need a daily gallon.” Your body is incredibly efficient and will let you know when it is thirsty.How many Oz should a runner drink a day? ›
But, all in all, a good general guideline is to aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day. So, for instance, if you weigh 170 pounds, you typically want to try to drink 85 ounces of water per day.What is the most efficient hydration method? ›
The fastest method for rehydrating patients is the medical technique of intravenous (IV) fluid replacement. This sends electrolyte-balanced fluids directly into the blood stream so it gets distributed by your blood cells throughout the body almost immediately.What is the most effective hydration method? ›
The researchers found that while water — both still and sparkling — does a pretty good job of quickly hydrating the body, beverages with a little bit of sugar, fat or protein do an even better job of keeping us hydrated for longer.What is the fastest hydration method? ›
The fastest way to hydrate is with an oral rehydration solution. These products are packed with electrolytes which are minerals found in your body that balance fluid levels and maintain optimal hydration. While you can hydrate fast with regular water, focus on electrolytes.
- Sea Salt. Salt can be added to water in small amounts to increase electrolyte levels. ...
- Coconut Water. Coconut water is nature's most nutritious beverage. ...
- Ginger. ...
- Watermelon. ...
- Oral Hydration Solutions - The Best Way to Add Electrolytes to Water.
Here is one more reason to enjoy that morning cup of joe: “Coffee counts toward your daily water intake,” says Lauren DeWolf, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. The water in coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages helps us meet our daily fluid needs.What happens if a runner drinks too much water? ›
Symptoms of overhydrating include weight gain during the race, nausea, confusion, vomiting and headache. "Although this can definitely happen to men, women may be at greater risk because they usually have a smaller body size and don't sweat as much," says Beaver. And don't fall for common overhydration myths.How much water do I need for a 20 mile run? ›
But every one of these fueling items is necessary when I run for 3+ hours. Water and lots of it: The average runner needs about 16-28 fluid ounces of water per hour.When runners drink too much water? ›
Overhydration by athletes is called exercise-associated hyponatremia. It occurs when athletes drink even when they are not thirsty. Drinking too much during exercise can overwhelm the body's ability to remove water. The sodium content of blood is diluted to abnormally low levels.Is 2 gallon of water a day too much? ›
Health experts commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon a day. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.What happens if I drink 2 gallons of water a day? ›
Although water toxicity is rare in adults, drinking an extreme amount of water in a short time can be dangerous. Drinking too much water too quickly can cause your sodium levels to drop too low. This is known as hyponatremia, which can be serious and even fatal ( 35 ).How many 8 oz glasses of water in a gallon? ›
A standard glass contains eight ounces. So, one gallon equals 16 eight ounce glasses of water.What is the best drink after a run? ›
Chocolate milk happens to be a perfect post-run drink. It's loaded with high-quality protein and fast-digesting carbs for muscle recovery and energy refueling. Similarly to many commercial exercise-recovery drinks, low-fat chocolate milk has a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio ( 13 ).How do you hydrate before running? ›
Hydrating before a race: Drink 500ml of water or sports drink (with electrolytes and/or carbohydrates) about two hours before your run so you will be well hydrated before you start. It is not ideal to drink a whole lot of water under an hour before your race, as you could end up with many bathroom breaks along the way.
Some marathon runners require over 4,500 calories in a day for their training, so make sure you're giving your body the fuel it needs to meet the challenges you set.What hydrates better than Gatorade? ›
Pedialyte products generally provide fewer calories and sugar and a significantly higher electrolyte content than Gatorade. Pedialyte may help people of all ages recover from viruses, while Gatorade is specifically designed for adult athletes.What hydrates skin better than water? ›
Occlusives like beeswax, soybean oil, and lanolin form a barrier that prevents water from evaporating. Emollients like coconut oil, shea butter, and colloidal oatmeal add softness to the skin.Is Gatorade good for hydration? ›
Gatorade, because of its electrolyte content, helps to restore the lost electrolytes and keep a person hydrated, during intense activity. It can also replace electrolytes, during times of illness, such as stomach viruses.What drink has the highest electrolytes? ›
Best Overall: Gatorade
The levels of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) are moderate and sensible with 160 mg of sodium and 45mg of potassium per 12 fluid ounce serving. You can also find Gatorade varieties with higher sodium, zero sugar or no calories depending on your needs.
Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix takes the top pick among sports drinks. One scoop contains 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates, necessary for optimal recovery and rehydration, along with 380 milligrams of sodium to help you replenish fluids lost during exercise.Does Gatorade hydrate you faster than water? ›
It hydrates you
This myth comes from a study funded by Gatorade that found people who drank their product were better hydrated than if they drank water—but only because they drank more fluids. If you drank the same volume of water versus Gatorade, you'd be equally hydrated.
For most people, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated and rehydrate. Other options include coffee, tea, milk, fruits, vegetables, and oral hydration solutions. Don't hesitate to speak with your healthcare provider if you're concerned about your or someone else's hydration status.Is it more hydrating to sip or chug water? ›
Water is the ideal hydration choice because it moves quickly though your digestive system and into your tissues. Stay hydrated by sipping small amounts of water throughout the day; avoid chugging down fluids right before exercising to avoid stomach discomfort and bloating.What is the healthiest thing to put in water? ›
- Add slices of lemon, lime or orange. ...
- Infuse water with fresh berries, pineapple or melon. ...
- Slice cucumbers and add to water for a fresh, clean taste.
The easiest way to know if you're drinking enough fluid is to look at the colour of your urine. If you're drinking enough water, your urine will be clear or pale yellow. A darker yellow means you aren't drinking enough water. People who drink enough water also usually have soft bowel movements.What makes the best drinking water? ›
Mineral, structured, and pure spring water are some of the healthiest water you can drink because they're clean and contain all the essential minerals your body needs. Filtered water removes contaminants but might also remove essential minerals.What are the top 3 best liquids to drink to hydrate? ›
- Water. As you can imagine, water is one of the best drinks to fight dehydration. ...
- Electrolyte-Infused Water. What's even better than water? ...
- Pedialyte. ...
- Gatorade. ...
- Homemade Electrolyte-Rich Drink. ...
- Watermelon. ...
- Coconut Water.
- Drink the right amount for you. Everyone is different and has different hydration needs. ...
- Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day. ...
- Set an alarm or reminder to drink water throughout your day. ...
- Monitor caffeine and alcohol intake. ...
- Add flavor.
Yes, lemon water naturally contains more electrolytes. Usually, they are a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.What happens when you start drinking enough water? ›
You'll feel less hungry and may even lose weight. You'll probably experience more comfortable digestion (less heartburn). Bowel movements might be easier and more regular. Your teeth and gums will be healthier and more resilient.What can I drink instead of water? ›
Juice, smoothies, iced coffee, ice tea, protein shakes, milk, and other drinks can be excellent alternatives to water. You should avoid relying too much on drinks with a high sugar content, such as soda, certain fruit juces, energy drinks and chocolate milk.What drinks count as water? ›
For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are almost 100% water by weight. In addition, beverages such as milk, juice and herbal teas are composed mostly of water. Even caffeinated drinks — such as coffee and soda — can contribute to your daily water intake.Should I chug water after running? ›
You need to drink more fluid than you lost while exercising because you continue to lose fluid through sweating and urination for some time after you have finished your session.Is it OK to chug water after a run? ›
Drinking water after a workout can help: Prevent muscle cramps. Get this: Muscle mass is about 76% water, so drinking water after exercise can help prevent dehydration.
If you drink water immediately after exercise, large amounts of fluid accumulation in the gastrointestinal obstructs diaphragmatic activity due to poor gastrointestinal absorption ability, which will affect breathing and makes the repayment delayed when anaerobic motion prolonged.Should I bring water on a 5 mile run? ›
If your run is 30 minutes or less, drinking a glass or two of water before and after the workout should be fine. For runs longer than half an hour, bring a bottle and sip throughout your run. There are running-specific handheld bottles that fit comfortably like a glove—you likely won't even notice it's there!Should I bring water on a 3 mile run? ›
If you're doing a short run, say one that lasts 45 minutes or less, you may be able to forgo drinking water while you're out there. But it's never a bad idea to carry water, especially if it's really hot outside and you'll be sweating a lot. Many runners carry and drink water regardless of how long they'll be running.How do I hydrate for a 10 mile run? ›
Water, diluted juice and sports drinks are all good fluid replacers. If you've been running for less than an hour, plain water is a good choice, but, if you have been running hard for longer than an hour, drinks containing sugar or maltodextrin (a slow-release carbohydrate) and sodium may speed your recovery.How often should a runner drink water? ›
About 15 minutes before a run, drink six to eight ounces of water. During a run longer than 1 hour, drink water at regular intervals. This varies according to your sweat rate. Those who sweat more profusely may need 16 ounces every 15 minutes.Do runners retain water? ›
Intense workout stresses our body in a positive way. That stress and micro-tearing damage to the muscle fibers induces water retention in the body. Your body releases cortisol during exercise, which can impact your fluids and cause your body to retain water.Is overhydration worse than dehydration? ›
For most people, dehydration is the much greater issue. However, if you suspect you may be overhydrated, look for symptoms like cloudy thinking, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness, spasms or cramps and headaches. In severe cases symptoms could include mental confusion, seizures, unconsciousness and even coma.Should runners drink a lot of water? ›
In general, it's recommended that athletes aim to drink 0.4-0.8 liters per hour (L/h) or 8-16 ounces per hour (oz/h).Do runners drink a lot of water? ›
Many runners know it's important to drink plenty of water during a marathon to keep their bodies hydrated. However, drinking too much water during the course of a 26-mile race can actually kill them. “This condition, hyponatremia, occurs when you have low sodium in your body,” said Dr.Can runners drink too much water? ›
Symptoms of overhydrating include weight gain during the race, nausea, confusion, vomiting and headache. "Although this can definitely happen to men, women may be at greater risk because they usually have a smaller body size and don't sweat as much," says Beaver. And don't fall for common overhydration myths.
You need to drink fluid during exercise to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat. That way, you'll reduce the risk of heat stress, maintain normal body function, and maintain performance levels. The general rule is: if you're sweating, you need to be drinking fluids.What do runners do for water? ›
There are four main options for how to carry water while running: Handheld water bottles. Running belt with water bottle. Hydration vests.How much water is too much in one hour? ›
The authors of the study report that hyponatremia symptoms can develop if a person drinks 3–4 liters of water in a short period, though they do not give a specific time estimate. According to one case report , soldiers developed symptoms after consuming at least 2 quarts (1.9 liters) of water per hour.How much water is too much before a run? ›
You Don't Drink Enough Water Throughout the Week
Aim to drink about 2-3 mL perpound of body weight at least 4 hours before your run. If you chug an entire liter of prerun water, the kidneys will flush it out, causing frequent midrun bathroom breaks.
Drinking water throughout the day is the best way to replenish fluid losses, as opposed to drinking all at one time. Sip from a water bottle during the day. Eat fruit. Fruit is a great source of water, as well as electrolytes and fiber!
Exercise authorities such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommend that water and other hydrating drinks be cold when used during exercise.Can you over hydrate? ›
Overhydration can occur when people drink much more water than their body needs. People, particularly athletes, who drink excessive water to avoid dehydration can develop overhydration. People may also drink excessive water because of a psychiatric disorder called psychogenic polydipsia.