Need some extra headache?

Easy, just go for a run dehydrated. Or even better – like I did- go for a Race!nic3

Pick up your bib/start number at 6 am, that means breakfast has to be over by 5. If you have done some of those crazy Sunday morning race preparation rituals you know exactly what I am talking about….

It was race day, 10 K Women Challenge in May in Beirut, and it was unusually hot that morning but I was very excited. I started with some morning black coffee to wake me up and really did not feel the urge to drink water at all. Headed to the lineup, felt my heart was beating like hell but I thought to myself of course it would, I had a short nite sleep, I was nervous right before the race, and who isn’t pumped up with Adrenaline ahead of the race shot?

I sipped a sugary drink, then off we ran fast ahead the first uphill on the track couldn`t smile the whole 10 k – Not even once! Running felt like crawling but I had no clue why!

After finally reaching the finish line I was asked to give 100 ml urine for drug testing. I said to myself of course I would gladly oblige. But after several attempts, I started realizing the task at hand was not the piece of cake I thought it would be. I had to drink more than 3 liters of water and waited for hours to give the required amount to the patiently waiting Medical Doctor!

By the way, I wasn`t the only runner drinking and waiting there for hours ,but I got surely the biggest  headache and probable learned a very big lesson, so here it goes:

  • Adaptation
  • Preparation
  • Maintenance

Racing in hot conditions needs some extra preparation – If we are not adapted to the heat and humidity in summer, our body gets very hot real quick! (Excuse the technical jargon that comes next, this is the MD in me that had to add some science) In order to remain cool we sweat water and minerals (mainly salt). With the loss of water and minerals, the heat leaves our body.

Who hasn’t seen marathon runners with painful heat cramps staying on the sides of the tracks after a large fluid and electrolytes loss from sweating over hours of running in the Sun and heat.

The more we sweat, the more our blood thickens, the harder it gets for our heart to pump the blood into the muscles……we get tired fast lane!

To avoid this we need to drink MUCH MORE. Consecutively we produce more sweat to enable our bodies to keep up with the heat. After some weeks of adaptation we can bear a hot run much easier. But why?

We produce more blood – thinner blood, thinner sweat, we lose less minerals and therefor the heart has less work to do!

With the sweat we lose as well an important amount of salt (minerals) over our skin.
After a hot workout you need to refill fast, and our body tells us we need only water – like I did after my race, and this leads to a severe drop of mineral concentration in our body and therefore …. <drumroll please> Headache! Nausea and dizziness are very common symptoms in such a situation.

A message for all the coffee lovers and endurance runner: Don`t mess up your performance this summer. To check if you are well hydrated, watch your pee! Yes you read this right, UI used the ‘P’ word. Watch the color of your morning urine if it is transparent, it is almost perfect!

If the color is yellow, then drink up before you jump in your running shoes….
How much water? Well until the urine color is transparent, or minimum half a liter pre run.
For those who want to know exactly, how much fluids they lost on the run:
You can measure your weight before and after the run! I know freakish but true.

Remember, if you ever encounter a similar situation as mine – hot ,early, fast / long run:

Throw a pinch of salt in each  bottle of mineral water so you could smile again before you get to the finish line photographer !!

As a MD, I have to give a more exact recipe: In 1 liter of water mix  0.9 g Sodium (cooking salt).

Or find some sport drinks and bananas at the corniche!

Enjoy your runs and have a great summer!


Nicole Elias, MD

Sports medicine, Psychotherapy and coaching