Why Proper Hydration and Nutrition is Important for Runners

Why Proper Hydration and Nutrition is Important for Runners

Aug 03 2016

Keeping the body fueled for significant mileage in the summer heat is crucial when upping your running game.

By: Chris Spyke

Without proper hydration and nutrition, your body will not have the appropriate amount of energy required to complete longer running distances. The summer training season is a good opportunity to discuss hydration and nutrition tips that all runners should know.

How Much Water Should You Drink

The guidelines for maintaining good levels of hydration while running is rather simple. If you sweat while running (which we all do) then you need to drink water while you run if you exceed 30 minutes of exercise.

Don’t complicate it — drink when you are thirsty. For a while the trend of hydrating during a run revolved around a formula that recommended a certain amount of ounces of water per given amount of time. The result led to overcorrecting, causing many runners to over-hydrate, which can be a much more serious issue than dehydration. By simply drinking water when your body tells you it needs it, you will consume an adequate amount of fluid.

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Why is Water Important?

Water has numerous health benefits to keep you and your body running smoothly, including:

  • Helping the body execute many basic and critical functions
  • Keeping the body cool
  • Maintaining blood volume

Nutrition and Energy Replacement

Here are a few helpful tips to ensure you’re replenishing your energy storage:

  • In most cases, the human body can rely on its nutrition storage for 60-75 minutes of exercise without needing replacement. Factors that may cause deviation from that amount of time would be body weight, workout intensity and potentially weather.
  • On a run lasting longer than 75 minutes, you will need to proactively replace this energy every 45 minutes, which is most commonly done with supplements such as gels, chews or sports drink. For example, if you are running for 90 minutes you’ll want to take a gel at 45 minutes to make sure you don’t bottom out early rather than at 75 minutes when your supply has depleted.
    • Note: energy supplements are commonly small 100 calorie packets of gummy chews or gel-like liquid pills that provide you with immediate energy that your body will burn through the duration of your run.
  • If you aren’t replacing your stored energy, you might experience “hitting the wall,” a runner’s nightmare. This is the result of running on empty, more formally known as Central Fatigue, which is when the brain is not getting ample supply of what it needs to remain focused. This may skew your perceived level of exhaustion and decision making such as  feeling tired when your muscles are still in good form.
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Hydration/ Nutrition Training Planning

The best way to approach hydration and nutrition is to have a plan.

The first step will require a stop into your local running store to purchase a hydration belt, vest or hand-held water bottle designed specifically for runners. In addition, consult with someone who uses the energy and electrolyte supplements and can share the benefits of each option, ultimately recommending a good choice for you to try first.  

Here is a good example of a nutrition, hydration and supplement plan:

  • Before the run: Drink 8-10 oz of water and have a gel packet.


  • During the run: Consume a gel every 40-45 minutes. Make sure to always consume your supplement with some water.
  • After the run: Drink at least 16 oz of water, a salty snack and some protein to help your body recover and repair.
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Set Yourself Up for Success

Whether you’re chasing a new personal record or just want to cruise around town with your running buddies, it’s important to hydrate and fuel your runs so your experience and goals aren’t compromised. Imagine the list of variables playing into the result of a great run. Good or bad weather is something you can’t control, but properly fueling your body is something you can  ensure is executed.

About the Author: Chris Spyke is the Training Program Coordinator at Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, who runs not only for health, but also to satisfy his curiosity and desire for exploration in daily living. He enjoys his role at Gazelle Sports because he thrives on the opportunity to passionately help others reach their goals by sharing his knowledge and experience in running 5+ marathons, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon.