Nutrition Plan for Runners - Hydration, Boost Athletic Performance


Hydration plays a vital role in the performance. Boost your athletic performance with our nutrition plan for runners.

Nutrition Plan for Runners - Hydration, Boost Athletic Performance

Are you searching for a way to boost your athletic performance? Then you are in the right place. Hydration plays a vital role in the performance of an endurance athlete. Despite this being common knowledge, only a few athletes use this option to boost their performance.

Naturally, our body consists of over 50% water, of which there is a 60-70% quantity in men and 55-65% in women. During exercise/competition, our body tends to lose some water in sweat through the skin and vapor through breathing. This is meant to cool down the body in the process.

According to various studies, athlete performance is impaired during dehydration. This is the reason why hydration is critical if you want better performance during exercise or racing. Many athletes are in constant fear of bonking due to low energy supply and invest more in muscle fuels, gels, nutrition, and supplements.

However, if you are dehydrated, you will slow down before you deplete your energy reserves. Thus, it's essential to keep in mind that dehydration is a critical cause of fatigue. So let's have a look at:

Dehydration risk

When your body suffers from dehydration, the amount of water contributing to the plasma volume is much lower. And as a result, your blood becomes thicker. The heart must exert more power to pump blood around the body through the vessel. In narrower blood capillaries, it's even more difficult for blood to circulate.

In the process, the circulation of nutrients and oxygen becomes a challenging task. But that's not all; the body's ability to eliminate waste and toxins also reduces. And with lower blood volume, there is a need for a faster heartbeat to keep up the blood pressure.

Under such conditions, the performance of endurance athletes is reduced. When there is a one percent loss of water from the body, it results in a ten percent decline of physical abilities. Water plays a massive role in lubricating the tendons as well as in nitrogenous waste elimination. A drop makes the athlete susceptible to tendinitis.

The chance of suffering from kidney stones is higher due to water decline that would otherwise dilute the kidney's salts. Lastly, hydration plays a vital role in cooling the body during workouts. But with a low water level, this function is crippled, and as a result, the athlete may experience thermal shock.

Signs of Dehydration

As an endurance athlete, you must monitor for the following dehydration signs. They will enable you to know when to hydrate to maintain your athletic performance and trusted diet plan.

  • Higher heart rate
  • Thirst
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low performance is characterized by breathlessness, fatigue, tendinitis, heavy legs, and aches in the muscle and ligaments.

Correlations between dehydration and the performance of endurance athlete

Both the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association) and the AMCSM (American College of Sports Medicine) encourage hydration. Through this, the athlete will reduce a fluid loss (less than 2% body mass), decreasing endurance performance due to dehydration. According to previous studies, people with at least 2% loss of body mass due to dehydration have a drop in performance between 7 and 29 percent. Some of the factors that lead to this drop in endurance performance include:

According to previous studies, people with at least 2% loss of body mass due to dehydration have a drop in performance between 7 and 29 percent. Some of the factors that lead to this drop in endurance performance include:

  • Impaired metabolic function
  • Impaired CNS (Central Nervous System) function
  • Higher heat strain
  • Higher cardiovascular strain

What's more, endurance has been shown to drop in athletes who begin an event while hypo-hydrated and dehydrated on the track. Thus, 2 to 3% of dehydration levels are shown to cause a drop in maximum aerobic performance. This reduces further if the surroundings are hot, exerting physiological stress on the body.

Therefore, for endurance athletes to optimize their performance, they must hydrate well before and during workouts. This can be done with the knowledge of proper fluids needed to supplement the fluid body loss. Thus, all athletes can benefit from drinking due to sensational thirst and reduce the >2% body mass loss.

Importance of Hydration for Endurance Athlete Performance

Avoid heatstroke

The body heat of an athlete stands for almost 80% of the energy they spent. And through perspiration, the body can naturally cool down. But for this to happen, a large amount of water is necessary. When one is suffering from intense dehydration, the body experiences a heat stroke.

Heatstroke can arise due to high humidity, high temperatures, poor ventilation, absence of water, and intense workout in the sun. During this, the rise in body temperature exceeds the critical threshold. As a result, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches

Heatstroke can lead to serious neurological issues or even can become fatal. Thus immediate treatment is necessary. So, drinking during workouts is essential. Simultaneously, working out shaded running or biking routes will help prevent heatstroke.

If you do feel as if you are suffering from heatstroke, stop and seek medical assistance immediately. Meanwhile, drink plenty of water to boost the body’s natural coolant.

Boost physical performance

According to various studies, endurance athlete performance can drop due to dehydration and rise with proper fluid intake. As an endurance athlete, you should go for a personalized nutrition plan and drink fluids rich with electrolytes and carbohydrates during a competition to supplement the loss during a workout.

Na(+) favors fluid retention, while sugars/carbohydrates favor consumption. Many athletes rarely compensate for fluid loss due to sweat. Simultaneously, drinking during your workout delays issues like thermal stress, fatigue, reduced plasma volume, and dehydration injuries.

In contrast, excessive drinking of water before, after, or during workouts depletes Na(+) in the body. It's therefore imperative for athletes to hydrate with fluids containing a 4-8% carbohydrate and electrolyte concentration.

When should you hydrate?

It is crucial to drink fluids before, during, and after a workout/exercise.

  1. Before
  2. Before the workout session or competition, you need to hydrate your body sufficiently. And this can be done effectively through maintaining the daily needs or four hours before the event starts. That said, you need to drink 5-7ml fluid/kg of body weight.

    The athlete should drink 3-5ml fluid /kg of body weight two hours before the event if there is darker urine or no urinating at all. Furthermore, taking foods rich in sodium is handy in boosting the body's ability to retain more fluids and activate thirst. And if the electrolytes are taken through fluids, then 20-50 mEq/liter is commended.

    Lastly, drinking lots of water for hyper-hydration before the event should be avoided. This will cause discomfort and the need to urinate during racing. What's more, it can dilute the sodium ion concentration resulting in hyponatremia.

  3. During
  4. It's important to hydrate during an event to avoid excessive dehydration (more than 2% water loss) and a shift in electrolyte balance. Even though fluid replacement is particular to an individual, you should achieve at least 3-8 ounces of drinks with 6-8% carbohydrate and electrolyte concentration after every 10-20 minutes during an event that's more than 60-90 minutes.

    This will stabilize the body fluid levels and concentration and boost performance, especially in endurance workouts or competition. It's common knowledge that drinking fluids rich in carbohydrates boosts and maintains the blood glucose level, thus reducing fatigue. Most sports drinks comprise of:

    • 20-50 mEq of Na(+) per liter
    • 2-5 mEq of K per liter
    • About 6-8% concentration of carbohydrates

    Alternatively, you can consume foods, gels, and energy bars with similar concentration depending on your body's needs. Consuming drinks with 20-50 mEq of Na(+) per liter or snacks with Na(+) will boost the body's thirst and promote retention of more water. Lastly, drinks with protein also stimulate a desire for water and encourage water retention.

  5. After

After finishing a workout or competition, the target is to restore the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Thus, an athlete needs to take about 150% fluid to restore the deficit within 6 hours and attain normal body hydration.

Practically, as an athlete, you need to drink up to 2 l to replenish your weight lost after workouts.

While salt demand may differ depending on a person, consider adding a little salt in your dishes. This will boost the body's electrolyte concentration and encourage you to take in more water.

What should you drink?

Drinking pure water after an hour of intensive training is quite dangerous. Do this, and you risk suffering from sodium deficiency (Hyponatremia). But you can avoid this by taking fluids with carbohydrates and electrolytes to replenish the energy and salts lost during sweating. Alternatively, you can prepare an isotonic solution.

Ensure the drink is cool, if possible, to boost the body's cooling. However, try and avoid frozen drinks during this time. Extremely cold drinks tend to disrupt normal digestion and may result in an intestinal upset. Thus, 15oC is the ideal temp.

Adhere to your Body thirst sensation

The hydration plan provided earlier is effective in improving your performance as an endurance athlete. But following the body's instincts or adhering to its thirst demands will optimize your performance even further. You need to adjust your fluid intake accordingly as you monitor your body response to note any warning signs.

That said, if you experience symptoms like lack of appetite or sloshy stomach, then chances are there is an imbalance between the fluid and calorie intake. Also, the cause could be overheating or pacing issues.

To resolve such issues, you need to take a break from fueling for up to half an hour. Take several sips of pure water to ease the gut content. If you feel grumpy, mentally down, unfocused, or irritable, you need to consume fast-acting sugars/carbohydrates. In this case, you can take a sports drink, gel, or simple sugar.

Final Remarks

Irrespective of the energy drink you take, the supplements, gel, or energy bar you consume, you need hydration power. According to studies, hydration can take you down way before the body's energy reserves are depleted. Understanding the importance of hydration for endurance athlete performance is vital if you want to deliver your best and achieve the most.

Additional Tips

Even if you are not working out, it's important to uphold daily hydration.

Reducing your coffee doses to 70-200 mg helps to sustain your performance. Meanwhile, avoid drinking coffee after 12 or 1 pm, which will reduce its impact on your sleep.

Also, alcohol intake is not beneficial to your performance. It has dehydrating effects and tends to disrupt recovery as well as sleep.

On the other hand, you have to quit alcohol three days to your workout or after the workout. It has dehydrating effects and tends to disrupt recovery as well as sleep. But after the three days, you can take alcohol in small doses while maintaining your daily hydration.

Lastly, K (+) and Na (+) are two crucial minerals lost from during sweating, therefore you need to supplement them through healthy diets. Thus, for every meal you eat, ensure you add a pinch or two of salt to balance the body's electrolytes.

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