There’s more to it than H2O.
Regardless of whether you’re lacing up for your first 5K or your twentieth marathon, it’s important to know how different types of hydration come into play on race day.
To perform at its best (and heal as quickly as possible after a feat of endurance), the human body needs the proper balance of protein, carbs, electrolytes and fluids all at the proper times. It’s helpful to think about your race in three stages — before, during, and after — and focus on your hydration efforts in the following ways.
Before the race…
Focus on fueling up. Downing beverages with simple carbohydrates and electrolytes in the hours leading up to the start of your race is the easiest way to ensure that your muscles are equipped with as much glucose (AKA energy) as they need and that your cells are happy with your electrolyte balance before you start sweating it all out.
Don’t fear sugar here — your body will use it. Just try to stick with quality sources like coconut water or a watered-down fresh fruit and veggie juice. You can also always eat a banana as you drink your pre-run water bottle and reap the same benefits.
During the race…
Keep it simple. The last thing you want to do mid-run is surprise your body with something you never did during race training. So if you never carried Gatorade with you, now is not the time to stop at every Gatorade table and chug away. Stick to small sips of water as you go in order to stay hydrated and avoid unwanted side stitches and stomach cramping.
Simplicity is the name of the game here. And don’t forget: You know your body better than anyone else, and during the race is the prime time to listen to it.
After the race…
Recover ASAP. It’s hard to feel hungry after exerting all of your remaining energy during the final sprint, but it’s critical that you take advantage of the 30-minute recovery window that begins the second you cross that finish line.
Opt for drinks that hydrate you as well as replenish your body’s need for protein and carbs. The carbs help to restock the muscles’ glucose stores, and the protein helps them start rebuilding what was torn and broken down through all of your physical efforts.
One of the best options out there? Chocolate milk. It might sound crazy to down dairy after a race while your heart is still pounding, but it has the perfect balance of everything your body needs in that moment (so long as you’re not lactose intolerant). Not to mention, it tastes phenomenal post-run.
So there you have it. If you fuel and hydrate properly and listen to your body throughout your entire race journey, you’re in for one of the most fun and rewarding experiences out there. You’ll also feel as good as new the next day — no hobbling around or delaying your return to your typical fitness routine. Talk about a win-win.