Water station: Stop or keep running?

Tara Vossers
Tara Vossers Vrijdag, 2 oktober 2015
Water station: Stop or keep running?

Every competitive runner knows all about the infamous water stations. For some, it’s an important moment to take a break and replenish their fluid balance. Others prefer to continue running because stopping would be detrimental to their running rhythm and pace. But when is it good to stop, and when is it okay to keep running?

Every marathon fan has no doubt experienced it or seen it on TV. Sagging, hunched runners swaying from side to side with absolutely no control over their steps. They have lost all coordination and can barely avoid falling over with every step. This is a good example of a runner with severe dehydration and/or sodium deficiency. The runner has probably not drunk enough to compensate for the fluids lost through sweat. A hot day and being overdressed can also contribute to increased fluid loss.

Consuming water during a race can have numerous benefits. It replenishes the moisture lost through sweat. It reduces the risk of poor coordination and balance problems. Drinking water during the race is recommended in the following situations:

  • A race lasting longer than 30 minutes;
  • A race day with high temperatures (25+ degrees), regardless of the race duration;
  • Being dressed too warmly. For example, wearing long sleeves and long trousers at temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius;
  • When you naturally sweat quickly and profusely during minor efforts, regardless of the duration of the effort.

It is especially important not to lose more than 2% of your body weight in moisture. Fluid loss can be easily measured by stepping on the scales before and at the end of training/competition. The difference in weight in kilograms is the lost moisture in litres. If you had a drink during training/competition, this should be added to the total amount of fluid lost.

When is it not necessary to drink water?

  • For races lasting no longer than 30 minutes;
  • On cool days (up to 20 degrees Celsius), where the duration of the race does not exceed 30 minutes;
  • Wearing shorts and short sleeves in temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius, with the duration of the race not exceeding 30 minutes;
  • If you know that you do not produce excessive sweat during exercise.

In the above situations, simply rinsing the mouth with water may also be sufficient.

Extra tip:

Drinking a lot of water on the road can also lead to complaints, especially if you sweat less than expected and drink a lot of cups of water to compensate. This certainly raises the moisture balance. However, the salt balance remains, as water does not contain salt. Salt deficiency can cause dizziness, light-headedness, pallor and complete exhaustion. So don’t drink extreme amounts for fear of running out of fluids.

In very hot or intensive conditions, it is advisable to drink sports water or eat something salty along the way. You can of course bring your own water bottle and add salt to it.

Tara Vossers
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Tara Vossers

Tara Vossers heeft als (sport)diëtiste een eigen praktijk in Doetinchem waar ze sporters begeleidt bij verantwoord afvallen en het geven van voedingsadvies aan (recreatieve) sporters.