How do you hydrate?

Hydration is a vital part of our lives in order to have happy, healthy functioning bodies but often we overlook or neglect this part of our existence. And yes, even myself at times.

But when it comes to running, hydration is vital.

With so many products on the market today geared towards runners or other exercise enthusiasts, how do you pick which method of hydration is right?

For me, I have four tried and tested hydration methods that I turn to for support.
  1. Plain water (or water with a twist of lime): I mainly drink plain water pre- and post-run and throughout the day. Very seldom do you see me carrying just water during a run because if I am going to carry a drink, it is because I am going to run a distance and need a little bit more oomph in my drink. Don't get me wrong, water is great but is best suited for standard hydration needs and shorter runs where you are not sweating too much. If you go beyond that, you need to switch your method in order to replenish those much needed electrolytes.
  2. Gatorade: How can you not turn to Gatorade? It seems to be the drink of choice at all runs and any runner knows, you don't want to drink something in a race you haven't trained with. But personally, Gatorade has always been a bit heavy on my stomach. I have trained with it diluted (quite a bit) and have done races where I take just a sip (and also hydrate with bigger sips of water). 
  3. Cytomax: I tried this when my doctor wasn't too pleased with how much I was diluting my Gatorade. She advised me to try this alternative because it goes down easier and isn't as sweet, as that was my main complaint, and I needed to get more electrolytes in my body. I got the tropical mix and it is a bit fruity but good. I have trained and raced with Cytomax.
  4. Homemade sports drink: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook (a great read for all runners) has a recipe for a sports drink that I do love. It is delicious and gentle on your stomach. I have trained and raced with this. For those who are interested, I provided the recipe below.
So how do these stack up nutritionally (per 8 oz serving)?
  • Plain water: no calories, no electrolytes
  • Gatorade: 50 calories, 14 g carbs, 100 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium
  • Cytomax: 90 calories, 22 g carbs, 12 g sugar, 60 mg vitamin C, 6 mg calcium, 14 mg magnesium, 50 mcg chromium, 120 mg sodium, 60 mg potassium
  • Homemade sports drink: 50 calories, 12 g carbs, 110 mg sodium

 Now, how do you choose?

Look at what your run is going to entail. If you are doing a longer run perhaps a drink with more carbs is worth it. Also look at the convenience and what you will really be able to do. For example, I am racing on O'ahu in April. Am I going to pack the ingredients needed for the homemade sports drink, fly to Oa'hu, and make my drink? Probably not. Too many uncertainties and hassles. I could pack some Cytomax and mix with water. That seems simple enough but how much drink do I plan to carry? The third alternative is to begin training more with Gatorade so I can drink the Gatorade and water along the course and run light. What have I decided? I'm not 100% sure yet but I am training with Cytomax and Gatorade right now and will keep you posted.

Homemade sports drink recipe (from Nancy Clark's book, Sports Nutrition Guidebook):
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 Tbl lemon juice
3 1/2 cup cold water
* Dissolve sugar and salt in hot water and then add juice. Chill.

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