By Simon Gould
Whenever you think of running you automatically think about hydration. If there’s one thing a runner needs is to make sure they’re well hydrated as they run. Dehydration makes it more difficult for your blood to carry oxygen around the body. So we need to maintain a level of hydration within our bodies.
With our bodies made up of about 60% of water it’s a pretty important substance. We have to hydrate regularly whether we’re exercising or not. One thing exercise does it makes us hot and sweat. We need to replace the lost fluids and we do that with water or other drinks. But how much do we need to drink while running on a treadmill?
How often and how much to drink on a treadmill
It depends on the exercise you’re planning. If it’s a short 20 minute run then hydration is still important but you could follow your thirst as a guide. If however, you’re planning a longer workout session then it’s advised that you get drinking water about 1 to 2 hours before the exercise. The recommended amount is 16 ounces.
During your run is when you sweat so hydration is at it’s most important. This is when your performance can be affected by dehydration. We’ve all felt thirst during a run but that doesn’t mean consuming too much water. You can drink too much. The recommended amount is 5 to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes as per the Journal of Athletic Training.
How dehydration affects us
Anyone who has run often will always hear of the quote that 2% or more of dehydration starts to affect your performance. But does it really. When you think of marathon runners and they stop at water stations they don’t seem to take on much fluid. They seem to pour most of it over their heads to cool them down.
Something must be happening in the elite athletes bodies to need such little water. But it’s not them who need little it’s the hobby runners who drink too much. When we’re hydrated we get tired and that’s where our performance dips so we must maintain hydration while running. But how much do we need to drink while we workout?
When to take on liquids
The good thing about running on a treadmill is that a water supply is never far away. The fact that you have a space for a water bottle built into nearly every treadmill now helps. Before we talk about how to take care the water we need while we’re exercising, what about the liquids needed before and after running. How much should we consume then?
Running in the mornings has been shown to be very beneficial for you in helping you sleep and reducing blood pressure. But hydration is difficult because we’re often dehydrated in the mornings. For this reason it’s important to hydrate yourself as soon as you wake. You need to make sure you get fluids in a while before you exercise and not minutes before you get on the treadmill.
How hot your environment is
Your thirst is a good measurement as to when you need hydrating and how much to take on. It is possible to drink too much and certainly isn’t comfortable if you do. Your body contains important nutrients and chemicals and you don’t want to dilute that by drinking too much water. That’s why your thirst will always remain a fantastic guide.
The thing about running on a treadmill is you’re going to get hotter quicker. The inside of a gym or health club doesn’t have a cooling breeze and those fans on treadmills don’t really do much. Gyms are often at room temperature which is comfortable when entering but not when running. This is the same as a treadmill at home, the room starts getting hot.
Hydration after exercise
If you’re exercising for an hour or longer then you need to replace the electrolytes lost in the blood. Sweat contains a tiny amount of sodium during exercise of an hour or longer. This is where an isotonic drink is often helpful. They are absorbed quicker and contain the electrolytes lost in sweat. They can be found in energy gels as well which are useful too.
What some people recommend is to weigh yourself before and after exercising and drink the difference in weight. This is not very scientific but some swear by it. We think it’s taking it too far. Once you’ve done the exercise as long as you quench your thirst then you’ll drink enough. If you find your urine too yellow then you need some more but weighing yourself is not really necessary.
After exercise hydration is important too. You will keep losing fluid even after exercising so you need to take on some H2O immediately after and watch your thirst. Your muscles need to rebuild and repair after the exercise they’ve just done and water is a vital component of that. Due to the latest research our understanding of hydration and atletic performance has increased greatly.
Isotonic and electrolyte drinks and bars
If you’re running for a long period of time for 60 minutes and longer, depending how fatigued you feel, the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise has shown that you can reduce fatigue by 37% by replacing electrolytes and carbohydrates. You can do this with drinks or special sports energy bars that have the relevant nutrients.
A bar shouldn’t replace hydration and if you continue exercising take on liquids every 20 minutes or so and definitely if you’re feeling thirsty. There are many drinks around at the moment that purport to be sports or energy supplements. Further investigation is needed into the ingredients if you’re buying these for use during a challenging run or exercise routine.
So many of the drinks come with caffeine. Everything comes with the equivalent of many cups of coffee. Stay away from this, you need to avoid caffeine as it dehydrates you and obviously that’s the last thing you need. It won’t increase athletic performance where endurance is the main aim of the activity you’re doing.
There should be calories, sodium and some other trace minerals. I would avoid something like Red Bull for this purpose. It’s the same with bars and gels, everything claims to be ideal for use in sports. It’s becoming the fashion as sales increase. It needs to be easily digestible, so the chocolate and nuts sports bar is not something you should be considering.
There are still a lot of research and medical papers being written on the subject of hydration during exertion. But if you’re doing your activity as a hobby then it’s not something you need to think excessively over. Maintaining and enjoying your exercise should be your primary aim while taking on water regularly in an automatic way.
The good thing about a treadmill is that most have water bottle holders. There are usually two so you could have one with water and the other with a good sports drink if you’re doing a long treadmill run. I rarely do long runs now so it’s been a long time since I’ve taken on special drink, bar or gel but they do work from my experience.
Elite athletes especially marathon runners have nutrition coaches and have had their body composition measured. They will make their own sports drinks with different ingredients throughout the course. These change depending on which mile marker they’ve just gone through. It’s all very interesting and what makes exercise fun.
Overall for us treadmill runners, whether we run to get fit, lose weight, train for a race, whatever. We can take care of ourselves by thinking about how hot we are feeling in the environment we’re in. Consume liquids every 15 to 20 minutes. Do this and we avoid any problems like heat stroke, so we can concentrate on and enjoy our exercise.
- WebMD have a great article on hydration looking in detail at sports drinks and which to choose
- Better Health Channel have an excellent summary about hydration during exercise
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*