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Health & Exercise Forum

Steamtown Marathon II of III: Preventing Dehydration

Oct 5, 2009

Dr. Paul MackareyIt is one week away from the 14th Steamtown Marathon. This is the second of three columns dedicated to those dedicated runners preparing for the big day, October 12, 2009.

I would like to take this time to congratulate and thank Bill King, race director, and his band of brothers, for their tireless efforts organizing and sustaining a great race that instills pride for all people of NEPA. It has inspired many people, myself included, to transfer the discipline and determination required to complete a marathon, to improving the quality of each day by conquering life’s challenges one mile at a time.

Therefore, I thought it fitting to share information regarding the prevention of dehydration for the marathon and recreational runner:

How to Prevent Dehydration

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.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

If you missed it, go back and read Part I of this series, "Prevention of Running Injuries."