Tips on Hydration and Fueling: Running a Race and Maximizing Your Performance

You are not maximizing your running performance if you do not hydrate or fuel during a race.

Here are some reminders and strategies for you to implement in your next race:

Run light – People overdo it with fuel belts, hydration packs, handheld water bottles, and more. These things weigh you down, which is why races have aid stations for you. If your race does not have aid stations, please email me at [email protected], and I will contact the race director directly. 99.9% of races have aid stations.

Embrace the station – Drink, don’t chug, a full cup of water at every single aid station. You may feel on top of the world, but that feeling will vanish if you get dehydrated. When you are thirsty, it may be too late. Stay hydrated and hit every aid station no matter what. Staying hydrated leads to better performance than having to rehydrate.

Avoid crowds – Upon running up to the aid station, go to where it is less busy. Running up to a less crowded table or a water volunteer who is not getting much action will allow you to get hydrated fast and be well on your way. Even in the busiest races, you can always find an opening.

Double up in the heat – Drink two cups of water at every aid station. One cup in your left hand and one in your right-hand works well.

No spilling, splashing, swirling or spitting – Drinking water does not mean spilling it all over you, splashing your face, or swirling and spitting it out of your mouth. Upon receiving a cup from the friendly race volunteer or the table, simply pinch the sides of the cup together. Pour the water into your mouth out of one side. This strategy works because the hole you are drinking out of is smaller than if you just drink it normally. It works and is easy to do.

Fuel – Don’t rely on the sports drink at the aid stations to fuel. Carry a gel, gu, beans, or blocks approximately every thirty minutes of running. I write “approximately” because everyone requires different amounts of fuel. Every half hour is common. It is best to do some experimenting with this on your training runs.

Wash it down with water – Plan to eat your energy fuel a few minutes or seconds before the upcoming aid station. Reviewing the course map a night or two before the race, you can see where the aid stations will be located. Plan when you will fuel and hydrate. Wash that fuel down.

Performance – A race is not the time to think about your body fat percentage and how, if you skip aid stations/fuel, you will have a greater calorie deficit by the finish line. If you are, you may burn more calories if you listen to these suggestions because you will run harder and longer and end up burning it off.

Avoid excuses – Hydration and fuel are essential for performing at your best. Please don’t lie to yourself and say that you don’t need it. You do.

Don’t try anything new. Race day is not the time to experiment. It is in your best interest that you practice race strategies during your training runs.

If you follow the suggestions above in this post, you will maximize your performance during your next race. Remember, proper hydration and fueling will not replace unintelligent training. You need to train intelligently and hydrate/fuel properly to maximize your performance.