Staying hydrated is essential for runners to perform at their best, especially during longer runs or in warmer temperatures. Even small amounts of dehydration (1-2%) can impair athletic performance. Here are some hydration tips to help you stay on top of your game:

  - Pre-run Hydration: For shorter runs lasting 45 minutes or less, hydrating beforehand should be sufficient. Aim to start hydrating about two hours before your run to ensure your body is adequately prepared. Be sure to replenish fluids after your run, especially if you've been sweating a lot or running in warmer weather.

  - During-run Hydration: During longer runs exceeding 45 minutes, especially in hot conditions, it's crucial to stay hydrated. Hydration belts or vests are great options for carrying water, along with other essentials like your phone, keys, and gels. However, if carrying water feels cumbersome, consider stashing water bottles along your route or planning a route with access to water fountains for refills.

  - Know Your Sweat Rate: Everyone has different sweat rates, so there's no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration. To determine your sweat rate, follow these steps: weigh yourself before and after your run, factor in the amount of fluids consumed during your run, and divide by the duration of your run. This will give you a ballpark figure to avoid significant dehydration.

  - Avoid Overhydration: While staying hydrated is essential, overhydrating can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia, where sodium levels in the blood become diluted. To prevent overhydration, don't exceed 10 fluid ounces every 20 minutes during exercise.

  - Post-run Hydration: Replenishing fluids after a run is crucial for restoring hydration levels. Aim for 16-24 fluid ounces for every pound of body weight lost during your run. For runs lasting over 90 minutes, consider fluids containing carbohydrates, electrolytes, and a small amount of protein. Chocolate milk anyone?

  - Muscle Cramps: Contrary to popular belief, muscle cramps are rarely caused by dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. Instead, they're often a result of muscle fatigue from repeated contractions. Treat muscle cramps with gentle stretching rather than relying on pickle juice or salt tabs.

Remember, staying properly hydrated is key to running your best and avoiding potential risks. Stay safe, stay hydrated, and happy running!

Written by Jamie Sheahan, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition at The Edge Sports & Fitness, where she also doubles as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. As a registered dietitian, Jamie regularly works with endurance athletes to develop day to day meal plans as well as fueling plans to optimize performance.