Water affects athletic performance more than any other nutrient. You should drink fluids before sensing thirst and continue to drink in regular intervals. Water will be absorbed faster by drinking larger volumes versus sipping, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Proper hydration levels before and during exercise maximizes stamina during short or long runs.
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Effects of Dehydration
Running in the cool early morning can be an ideal way to start your day. The physiological effects of prolonged running can be enough to dehydrate your body. Water is lost in the body as a result of energy production and through sweat to cool the body down. A hot or humid environment enhances this effect of fluid loss increasing body temperature, adversely affecting performance and increasing risk of heat stroke or exhaustion.
Fluid replacement before exercise ensures that the body will have normal water content before any water loss occurs. According to Scott Powers, professor of physiology at the University of Florida, you should start to drink beverages at least four hours before exercise, and drinking beverages with sodium or eating salted snacks will help the body retain the fluid.
Drinking fluids during exercise reduces the chance of becoming excessively dehydrated, which can limit your running stamina, in which lungs play a critical role. According to Powers, the body has different nutrient needs depending on exercise duration. Exercise lasting less than one hour only requires 16 to 34 oz. of water. Exercise lasting one to three hours requires anywhere from 27 to 54 oz. of a beverage containing 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrates with 750 to 1,500 mg of potassium.
Customizing your own performance drink at home creates a more complete drink suited to your physiological needs. Commercial sports drinks normally contain a combination of water and a 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrate/electrolyte solution. The NSCA states that in order to create your own sports drink, first dilute two parts of a sugared drink such as fruit juice or soda with one part water. To enhance potassium content and flavor, add a citrus juice such as lemon or orange.
Many factors can limit your running performance. According to Powers, cold drinks are absorbed faster than warm drinks, which will maintain your heart rate and body temperature. In addition, drinks with moderate doses of caffeine can also help performance. The NSCA states that caffeine increases fat oxidation or fat metabolism during exercise. This greater use of fat as a primary energy source spares the muscle's stored energy, delaying fatigue.