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Health & Exercise Forum

Steamtown Marathon Runners: Remember to Hydrate

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Sep 27, 2010

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumIs water adequate to prevent dehydration? Will a sports drink improve my performance? While some answers to these questions apply generally to all, others answers vary according to the temperature, humidity, length of time and intensity of the activity and condition of the athlete.

Proper hydration is essential for the comfort and safety of the recreational and serious athlete. Hydration is critical to maintain cardiovascular function, body temperature and muscle performance. As temperature, humidity, intensity, and duration of exercise increase, so too does the importance of proper hydration. Excessive sweating can lead to a loss of blood volume which requires the heart to work much harder to circulate you blood through your body.

Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, loss of coordination, and muscle cramping leading to poor performance. Prehydration, (drinking before exercise) is the first step in preventing dehydration. Marathon runners, other long distance runners and cyclists often prehydrate1-2 days before a big event. Rehydration, (drinking during or after exercise) is the second step in preventing dehydration. While athletes may be more vulnerable to dehydration, all persons engaging in exercise would benefit from increased performance, delayed muscle fatigue and pain by maintaining adequate hydration. Proper prehydration would include drinking 12-16 ounces of water 1-2 hours before exercise.  Athletes with other health issues should consult their family physician before engaging in long distance endurance sports.

American College of Sports Medicine Hydration Recommendations:

  • Eat foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Drink plenty of fluids between exercise sessions. The best fluids are plain water or fluids without sugar, caffeine or alcohol.
  • Drink 17 oz or 2+ cups of fluid 2 hours before exercise
  • Drink every 15 minutes during exercise.
  • Keep drinks cooler than the air temperature. Drinks should be readily available.
  • If you exercise more than 60 minutes, you may benefit from a sports drink containing a carbohydrate. The carbohydrate drink should not exceed 8% solution
  • If you exercise more than 60 minutes, take 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to delay fatigue and fuel muscle contractions.
  • If you exercise more than 60 minutes, include (.5-.7 g per gallon) sodium in your drink of choice. This will also encourage additional drinking.
  • Drink 24 ounces of water for every 2 pounds you lose after your workout. This is based on pre and post exercise weight.
  • If you exercise more than 90 minutes, sports drinks may be helpful. 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces of drink will help supply the needed calories for performance.
  • Avoid caffeine. While the energy is good, it acts as a diuretic to rid the body of fluid. This is counterproductive for the high level athlete.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next week’s Pre-Steamtown Marathon article will discuss blister prevention.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of  Scranton, PT Dept.