Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Are Nearly Half of Runners Drinking Too Much Water During Races?

Tara and Greg

Tara and me running in the Kaiser Permanente (Pasadena) Half Marathon on May 15, 2011

Yes, according to the latest study.
Nearly half of recreational runners may be drinking too much fluid during races, according to a survey of runners by Loyola University Health System researchers.

Expert guidelines recommend runners drink only when thirsty. But the Loyola survey found that 36.5 percent of runners drink according to a preset schedule or to maintain a certain body weight and 8.9 percent drink as much as possible.

Nearly a third of runners (29.6 percent) incorrectly believe they need to ingest extra salt while running. And more than half (57.6 percent) say they drink sports drinks because the drinks have electrolytes that prevent low blood sodium. In fact, the main cause of low sodium in runners is drinking too much water or sports drinks. "Many athletes hold unscientific views regarding the benefits of different hydration practices," researchers concluded. The study was published in the June, 2011, issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
This is an interesting study and I do confess to taking Salt Sticks on the hour. They seem to work for me since I am a heavier runner and sweat profusely. I do drink sparingly though. I have been talking salt since the 2010 Los Angeles Marathon and they allow me to run at a faster pace without getting dizzy.

In California since it is a more temperate climate, it is difficult sometimes to predict race conditions. For example, my Los Angeles Marathon in March was cold and rainy, while my recent half marathon at Disneyland was hot and humid.

If anything I probably do not drink enough during long runs and races. Maybe this is best.
During the 1980s and 1990s, sports drinks ads warned about the supposed dangers of dehydration, and recommend that runners drink as much as 1.2 liters (five cups) per hour. Sports drink manufacturers generally have stopped promoting overdrinking. But the unscientific beliefs persist that runners should drink as much as they can or according to a preset schedule.

"We have been trained to believe that dehydration is a complication of endurance exercise," Dugas said. "But in fact, the normal physiological response to exercise is to lose a small amount of fluid. Runners should expect to lose several pounds during runs, and not be alarmed."

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