How to Drink Smart All Day Long

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It's no secret that for runners, proper hydration and peak performance go hand in hand. Without sufficient fluid intake, muscles and organs are unable to function at their best.

Smart hydration means more than stashing a sports drink in your gym bag. "If you wait until your event to start hydrating, it's not enough," says Karen Newcomer, MD, who specializes in sports medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Nutritionists and sports medicine doctors say a strategy of around-the-clock hydration pays off, separating top runners from the rest. The key is to reach for drinks that will give you more bang for your gulp, and provide a nutritional boost while optimizing fluid levels.

Here's how to plan your beverages throughout the day to feel your best from morning until night.

7 a.m. Pre-Run Breakfast

Your best bet: orange juice mixed with water or a yogurt-based smoothie

Coffee can be great for a wakeup jolt, but runners should be aware that this popular a.m. beverage is a diuretic. Jamie McHaffie, RD, explains that runners must balance the dehydrating effect of caffeine with hydrating liquids: "We can't only rely on our thirst. We have to make drinking a habit."

McHaffie recommends pairing a protein-rich morning meal with half a glass of orange juice mixed with water. She explains that since your body goes into a fasting state overnight, orange juice will provide a fast-absorbing source of natural sugars and carbohydrates to give you a pre-run energy lift.

If you have a weak appetite when you first wake up, sip a balanced meal in a glass. A smoothie is a light, easy meal that will fulfill both your caloric and hydration needs before you hit the trail.

8 a.m. Mid-Run Sipping

Your best bet: sports drink or coconut water

If you're heading out for a short run, hydrating with water beforehand will be sufficient. But any time you plan to run for 40 minutes or more, the American College of Sports and Medicine recommends taking in four to six ounces of an electrolyte-enhanced drink every 20 minutes.

Without the proper electrolyte levels, a runner can quickly become dehydrated, and that fluid loss slows the movement of blood to the muscles, brain and skin. Sports drinks will deliver both electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, as well as the carbohydrates needed for lasting energy.

You can also stock your fuel belt with coconut water, which has more potassium than a banana and roughly 70 calories per serving.

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