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Staying hydrated while running in Texas summer heat

Running & Fitness
Saturday, July 25, 2020

One of the most important practices a runner needs to follow while running in hot Texas summers is to stay hydrated. The simple practice of staying hydrated is not as simple as it sounds. The most common fluid for staying hydrated is water. But, even water can get a little complicated when a runner uses it to stay hydrated. The simple practice of drinking water starts to get complicated when you have to decide on the temperature of the water. Most research suggests cold refrigerator temperature for water to be absorbed into the system faster. Some reports suggest that the water is best if it is ice cold. You can’t drink as much volume when the temperature is ice cold. The practice of drinking smaller portions more often is the way to handle that. If you are like some runners, and set a water bottle out on the road someplace to drink during a long run, the problem is the hot summer sun makes the water temperature lukewarm. It is not as tasty, or have the nice cooling effect when you pour some of it over your head, but at this point any type of hydration is good.

The next complication with water is from the faucet, or a bottle, or for old fashioned runners, a hose. Being a person that grew up many years ago there is nothing like the taste of a little rubber in the water from a hose. When you break down the cost of bottled water from a convenience store the water in that plastic bottle is more expensive than gasoline. Twelve ounces of water and a gallon of gasoline are almost the same price in some stores    

To add to the complication of water hydration, there are some runners that like to squeeze a lemon slice into the glass for a little more taste. And there is always somebody that will find a way to make some money off flavored water and sell it to runners. If the runner needs energy, they can buy vitamin water. Next up is the flavored vitamin water with electrolytes added. The ad for this will tell the runner that this form of water is the ultimate drink for a long run. The company that takes this ultimate water up even one more step is that the plastic bottle will be insulated to keep the water cool while sitting out there on the road. The runner needs to know that this method of staying hydrated will come with an increase in price. Of course, in an emergency there is always Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or 7-Up.

Having adapted to Texas' ways after 47 years in the state, my favorite hydration system is sweet iced tea. It tastes great, has some caffeine in it for energy, and the sugar is also a good source of quick energy. How can you possibly go wrong with iced tea for a hydration drink for a Texas runner? I used iced tea for my source of hydration on long bike rides. I had better results with iced tea than some of the bike riders putting paper-like strips of electrolytes on their tongues. I did make the sweetness factor a little less by cutting back on the sugar. Even slightly-less sweet it still tasted great on a long run.

If the runner wants to get scientific with hydration there are several types of energy drink. The first products, like Gatorade, were a little too sweet and manufactures have since refined the minerals and sodium in the drink to a degree that closer matches the sweat a runner loses during a run. For race directors looking to save on the price of replenishment drinks for runners after the race, an "in-store brand" of sweetened energy drink will work. It is hydration anyway you want to look at it.

Some runners like fruit juice for hydration after a long run on a hot day. Every runner will have their favorite juice. Some like grape, some peach, and even mangos. An orange flavored drink will work because pure orange juice can be a little too acidic on an empty stomach. I found that out running the Double Decker race (22 miles) in Austin one year. I was told not to try orange slices from handouts during the run. As I was only a couple of miles from the finish I grabbed a couple of quarter orange slices from a young kid handing them out to runners. I took about five steps and doubled over with stomach cramps. My running partners were about 20 yards ahead of me before I could try to catch up.

And if you need a safe and tasty way of rehydrating after a run ,one of my favorites at this time of year is watermelon. How can you go wrong with a sweet watermelon for replenishing fluid and sitting down and enjoying a relaxing time eating watermelon? Whatever source you use for staying hydrated just make sure you get enough fluid in you to keep from getting over heated on a run.

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