How to Stay Hydrated While Training for a Marathon

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I'm one of those people who has to remind herself to drink water. It's honestly annoying to me. I mean, okay sure, after I have a sweat bath-inducing workout, I am thirsty, but I'll drink my fill and that will be that. Usually on a daily basis, I plop a water bottle on my desk and just hope and pray that I'll remember to drink the whole thing by the day's end.

This strategy does not fly while I'm training. What I eat is obviously important to how I'm able to log all my miles, but staying hydrated is essential to withstanding long runs, especially in the hot late summer months in New York City. When I approached this topic when I started my training, I had many questions: When should I go out of my way to drink water, even if I'm not that thirsty? How much should I drink? How much is just not enough? When do I reach a threshold—is that even possible? The team I'm running with, Team USA Endurance, put me in contact with Shawn Hueglin, Ph.D., R.D., a sports dietitian and physiologist with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and she recommends:

1. Hydrate throughout the day. Drink water when you wake, with each meal and snack, and one hour before bed.
2. Hydrate during training runs that last longer than 60 minutes. This is very specific to the individual regarding exactly how much, but the caution here is to not overdrink.
3. Use urine color pre-training sessions to assess hydration status. If your urine is a darker color, drink one to two cups of water before the training session begins.
4. Don't try new ways to hydrate on race day. For the day of the marathon, decide whether you will carry any fluids (and fuel for that matter) with you or rely on the aid stations. If you decide to rely on the aid stations, look on the website to see what products they will have and test these out during your training runs (gels, sport drinks, gummies, etc).
5. Have a plan outlined for race day. Decide: Will you be drinking water at every other aid station and a sports drink at the alternation aid stations? Try to stick with the plan, and try to practice this plan during your training as well.

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We all know that when it comes to hydration, it's all about plain ol' H2O, but what I wanted to know about was how other beverages affected hydration. Could they even hinder my training performance? When I asked Hueglin about which types of beverages to avoid, she told her same recommendation for food: Drink what will give you the most nutrients per calorie. "So does that mean no coffee and alcohol?" I asked. Luckily moderate alcohol consumption (that's one or two drinks) won't impact my hydration significantly as long I'm hydrating well throughout the day and during training sessions, she replied. Moderation is also key for caffeinated beverages, although "there is evidence to support that caffeine intake prior to and during training enhances performance, depending on the runner's response, habituation, and type of training session," she added.

And one last major tip: Make sure I don't do anything different on the day of the marathon. Track and field elite coach Andrew Allden, also a coach for Team USA Endurance, reiterated, "Start practicing your race nutrition and hydration plan from the first long run. Now is the time to experiment a bit and figure out what works."

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