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Are You Drinking Enough?

Start each day with a couple cups of coffee followed by a workout. Eat little or nothing for breakfast, have a Coke and salad for lunch, drink nothing more than a few sips of water during a normal work day, eat a low carbohydrate dinner, then unwind with a couple of beers in the evening. Follow this pattern for a few days and guess what? You will be a 3 or 4 pounds light!

It is a common misconception that heat-related problems occur when runners do not drink enough water on one particular day, and then simply overdo it. A more likely scenario is a gradual depletion of the water from the body over several days resulting in a state of chronic dehydration.

The combination of exercise and heat stress when de-hydrated can prompt symptoms such as cramping, fatigue, and poor workout performance. Far more serious would be the onset of heat exhaustion or life-threatening heat stroke.

Many experts believe that chronic dehydration is a common problem, especially under the following circumstances:

1. When athletes or others sometimes try to lose weight by following a rigid, low carbohydrate diet for an extended period. According to Wilmore and Costill in Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 30 percent of our daily fluid intake comes from the food we eat. Many carbohydrate foods are especially high in water content, so eliminating them from the diet automatically reduces fluid intake.

2. When you run or exercise on consecutive days, especially in a warm, humid environment. Physical activity increases the need to replenish fluids; you should drink up to a quart per hour during prolonged endurance exercise.

3. When you have to work in or are exposed to a warm, humid environment for several hours at a time.

4. Dehydration is accelerated when you take any sports supplements that enhances weight loss or boosts energy, especially when combined with exercise in warm, humid conditions.

5. Beer drinking is common among runners, but overdoing it regularly can be a problem. Counteracting the after effects with loads of coffee the next day leads to additional water loss.

6. If you drink only when thirsty. Wilmore and Costill state that people left to drink on their own according to thirst often require 24-48 hours to fully replace water lost through heavy sweating.

7. When you are taking a prescribed diuretic medication.

8. If you are marathon training, then it is likely you will lose several pounds after each and every long run. Make sure you rehydrate and eat until your weight returns to normal (1 gallon of water weighs 8 pounds).

Chronic dehydration puts you at risk for or aggravates a host of other health problems including kidney stones, joint pain, low back pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, allergies, and obesity.

The solution, of course, is to drink non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages even when you are not thirsty. Start out each day with 16 ounces of plain water. Stick with a well-balanced diet, use caffeine and alcohol only in moderation, and avoid sports supplements that are supposed to provide energy or promote fat loss.

If you are planning a long workout (60 minutes or more), hydrate the day before, and drink another 16 ounces in the 2 hours before you run. Get in the habit of weighing yourself before and after long runs. Try to be a pound or 2 heavy before you start, and replace whatever you lose. Finally, check the color of your urine and keep drinking if it is not clear.

Dave Elger is a well respected authority within the running community having written hundreds of articles on the topics of running and wellness. You can contact him at He also supports the Okinawa Running Club.