From a different question I learned that I probably need more electrolytes during running. I currently run 30minutes in one go, possibly increasing that in the future to up to an hour.

So far I drank some water before running and lots of water afterwards.

How can I improve on that, i.e. what should I drink? I'd like to avoid the expensive sports drink with lots of marketing and replace it with something I can make at home from more or less natural ingredients (water, juices, salt ...).

I also would like some advice on how to drink? Is drinking before and after enough? If not how do you carry your drink? Just a bottle in the hand, or a backpack with water?


4 Answers 4


Unless you're running in extreme heat conditions, for 30 minutes to an hour you really don't need any on course hydration. Drink some water beforehand, and afterwards to replenish sweat loss, and you should be fine. I've run up to 2 hours without on course hydration in moderate conditions.

There is some evidence that even 2% dehydration can start to cause performance impact, so if you notice that it is slowing you down or making you sluggish then you can start to increase your fluid intake. The simplest equation is that total body water is .6 x your weight in KG, since about 2/3 of your body weight is water. There are other formulae available, and a calculator at this link. The percentage is expressed as a portion of your total body water. Losses are measured against this. For example, I have ~ 44 liters of total body water (TBW). 2% of TBW is .88, or basically 1 liter. The best way to measure this is going to be weighing yourself before and after exercising many times to establish a baseline. Every kg of weight lost (2.2 lbs) is ~ 1 liter of fluid.

If you want to make your own, go to a home brewing supply house, and get a large bag of maltodextrin. It's basically the same sugar that goes into many of the gatorade/electrolyte drinks. You can also get various flavors, or just drink it straight. Play with mixtures so that you get the taste you want and your stomach will absorb it while exercising. As far as afterwards, studies have shown that one of the best replacement drinks is chocolate milk.

The marketers have pretty much convinced everyone that you can't do even a 5k without some sort of drink and nutrition along the way, when that just isn't the case. The human body has some pretty impressive storage capacity, and can fuel itself for quite a while without replenishment. As with everything, every person is different, so experiment and find what works for you.

  • 1
    What does 5% dehydration mean? What is 100%? Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 18:59
  • @JensSchauder - Good point. I have added the explanation, link to a multi formulae calculator, and changed it from 5% to 2% (Found the threshold had been lowered from the last time I looked at dehydration stuff).
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 20:05
  • Have a look at sportsscientists.com/search/label/dehydration to see a sport scientist take on dehydration, the 2% may be an incorrect deduction
    – baldy
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 11:36
  • @baldy - Not sure how that contradicts it? It's talking about core temperature rises more than it is dehydration. It is also talking about drinking to thirst at marathon distance, which is much longer than 30-60 minutes.
    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 14:42
  • @JohnP there is also an article showing that pro athletes lose up to 5% without any impact on performance
    – baldy
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 18:37

I've reduced my water consumption during bike races to a minimum, see my question about this. I try not to drink anything within the first hour of activity, depending on the temperature this time varies, of course.
While running is a bit different from biking I think it isn't absolutely necessary to carry something to drink while running, if you are unsure, have a look at my other question about how to carry water when running.

I've drank a lot of different stuff before, during and after my activity. I've never really felt a big difference, only that pure mineral water during a longer tour wasn't enough; but that was probably just a lack of carbohydrates than anything more complicated. Lately I adopted an uncommon, but in my eyes pretty effective drink: Alcohol free beer.
The reason is simple, it is one of the few isotonic drinks (depending on the beer) that is readily available. First I was just joking around, but then I tried riding some tours with it in my bottle and I am really happy how it turned out. (I mix it half and half with some mineral water and add some fruit sirup)

After a ride or run I prefer drinks that have at least some sugar in them, I often mix juice with water. A cold beer can be great, too. (Watch out for alcohol, don't drink too much or simply non alcoholic)

I would also recommend you to eat healthy and adopt a well rounded diet, you should not rely on your drinks to contain all the nutrients and electrolytes you need. It probably differs from person to person and you will have to do some experimentation yourself.

  • 1
    especially alcohol free wheat beer is a great isotonic drink! Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 15:25
  • 2
    Always be careful though, depending on the country alcohol-free or non-alcoholic beer can contain certain amounts of alcohol (up to 0.5% in Germany)
    – Baarn
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:19

Water intake should mainly be used to stave off dehydration, which can happen as early as a 1.5% body weight loss. Depending on how much/quickly you sweat, the time for this to happen can take a short period of time or a long one. Most likely, with exercise under an hour long, you're not going to lose that much water.

If you want to see if you're hitting these levels, next time you run, weigh yourself (without clothes on) before your activity, and then once again after activity ( without clothes on, and towelled dry) and see how much your body weight changes. If you've got over a 1.5% body weight loss, it might be a good idea to hydrate with plain water during your activity. Otherwise, you should be good without any hydration during the race, from a performance standpoint. That being said, not everyone fits in the mean, so tinker with your routine so you find out what is best for you.

Side note- there is some interesting research showing that if you swish and spit a carbohydrate based drink ( so you don't actually drink it), you can perform better in your activity!

  • 5
    If you are going to note "interesting research", it would be helpful if you could link to the study.
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 16:33

It is impossible to say what and how much "is enough" without more detailed information. But in general, if you are exercising at an intensity where you are sweating, then failure to replenish will definitely impact your performance.

Coconut water is well studied and one of the most natural hydration substances available. I just wanted to mention it because no one else has so far. From the most scientific studies I could find:

[Coconut water] was significantly sweeter, caused less nausea, fullness and no stomach upset and was also easier to consume in a larger amount compared with [a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage] and [plain water] ingestion. In conclusion, ingestion of fresh young coconut water, a natural refreshing beverage, could be used for whole body rehydration after exercise.


[sodium-enriched fresh young coconut water] was similar in sweetness to [coconut water] and [sports drink] but caused less nausea and stomach upset compared to [sports drink] and [plain water]. In conclusion, ingesting [sodium-enriched fresh young coconut water] was as good as ingesting a commercial sports drink for whole body rehydration after exercise-induced dehydration but with better fluid tolerance.


Unfortunately I have not found it to be cheap, and it tastes funny.

Milk may also hydrate better than trendy sports drinks or water. This surprised me a lot at first when I read it so I just wanted to mention it so people could begin to research it for themselves too.
Milk better than water to rehydrate kids, study finds.
Which does make sense since it is created to keep young animals healthy without anything else.

I love Pacific Health Accelerade. It is a sports drink so I understand it isn't what you are asking for. I am just suggesting it so you can consider and research the benefits of a ratio of fast digesting protein combined with the hydration of your choice if you continue to strive for longer or more intense runs. To answer your question directly, you could make something similar but more natural yourself with some maltodextrin for carbs, mix in some BCAA's for protein, and a banana or coconut water for the potassium (electrolytes).

Now that you have something to drink...
Start fully hydrated before the exercise by drinking plenty of liquid hours earlier and regularly. Your urine should flow clear before you start (vitamin supplements can make this step hard to tell because you can be hydrated but excreting very yellow unused B). You can't cram hydration. Then when you exercise, drink an amount as close as you can estimate to replace your lost bodyweight as you lose it. Drink before you feel thirsty..don't drink enough to feel sloshy.

How to carry...
If you need to carry liquid with you, consider a hands free container like a lightly loaded CamelBak. That should allow you to sip without anything holding you back.

  • -1. From the study on coconut water (comparing coconut water, coconut water from concentrate, bottled water and sports drink), conclusion: "All tested beverages are capable of promoting rehydration and supporting subsequent exercise. Little difference is noted between the four tested conditions with regard to markers of hydration or exercise performance in a sample of young, healthy men." - Also from the study - "In general, subjects reported feeling more bloated and experienced greater stomach upset with the CW and CWC conditions." (CW/CWC = coconut water/coconut water from concentrate)
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 20:34
  • Adam, you write about what to drink, but not when and how much (and why). It would be good if you could add some information on that.
    – Baarn
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 21:08
  • You claim coconut water comes out high, then cites a study saying it doesn't (Said study was also funded by Vitacoco, guess it didn't say what they wanted). The second is just an article by researchers, with no actual published study that I can find, saying milk hydrates better. Surprise, that research was funded by the Dairy Council. You also say to drink what you lose, but that doesn't take into account the bodyweight lost for used glycogen, etc. If you cite studies and they don't support your answer, then I will downvote it because then it is just misleading.
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 1:10
  • 1
    @AdamLane I don't think people are disputing the hydration qualities of coconut water. What is the issue is that it is unlikely that over a sub-1hr run someone would need any hydration, even water, let along something as specialised as coconut water. Also the ability to take regular milk on a run and keep it cool is probably really difficult.
    – user2861
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 6:51
  • I edited your answer to make it more readable, especially the abbreviations were unnecessary in my eyes. I think it would be nice if you could grab an exemplary quote from the milk-link, currently you don't really refer to it.
    – Baarn
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 7:41

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