Good Hydration Habits, and KMN Does Science

Author’s Note: I started this post to write about KMN’s science experiment (now relegated all the way to the bottom).  Suddenly – I swear this was absolutely out of my control – it morphed into a broader discussion of hydration.  Just as I was about to plunk the whole thing into a “save for another time” file, I had two separate discussions with people about hydration.  If that isn’t I sign, I don’t know what is.  So here it is.  Keep in mind, though, that this is by no means a comprehensive discussion.  I’ll be returning to this subject repeatedly and in more depth in the future.  So consider this a primer.

No matter the place, no matter the season, I am always preaching to my runners that hydration is important.  This means drinking enough during the day, during your workout, and during your post-workout recovery.

I prefer to hydrate with my feet up.  This way, I multi-task rehydration, resting, and hamstring stretching.

I prefer to hydrate with my feet up. This way, I multi-task: rehydration, resting, and hamstring stretching.

You can weigh yourself, crunch numbers, do calculations, etc, to determine your sweat loss and hydration needs during athletic activity.    But for most people (who are doing an hour or less of athletic activity in anything-but-Death-Valley conditions), my suggestion is much simpler: Your urine should be the color of lemonade, not apple juice.

Yes, yes – of course this depends on how much water your toilet holds. If your bowl holds a lot of water, think very dilute lemonade.  If your toilet is one of those super-efficient, almost-no-water ones, then think regular lemonade.  I believe that we are all smart enough to use this metric relatively, to determine changing levels of hydration – and more importantly, to notice when we’re a bit dehydrated.  [Note: For extended periods of activity and/or extreme heat, other metrics may be more appropriate.]  And as with most things, moderation is important.  While not very common, over-hydration can happen, and is dangerous.  You want lemonade pee, not water pee.  [Have you all sworn off lemonade consumption yet?  Hehehe…]

Upper Selatar Reservoir, Singapore

We found ourselves out at the Upper Selatar Reservoir during a rainstorm on Saturday.  Have to pee yet?

When you sweat, you also lose electrolytes (salts), which are essential for your body to function properly.  Most people can tolerate a little electrolyte loss without noticeable ill effect – your body has a small buffer zone, and what you lost will likely get replaced with your next meal.  However, when you sweat “a lot” (relative term, but we’ll hold off on that discussion for now), you may need to take in some additional electrolytes to replace what you sweat out.

KMN drinking Nuun

KMN demonstrates proper rehydration technique.


For example, after our run yesterday (~50 minutes, 86 F), KMN and I both drank many glasses of water and one glass of Nuun each.  What is Nuun?   Nuun (pronounced “noon”) is an electrolyte replacement drink.  It comes in a little tablet (like denture cleanser!) that you toss into a glass of water.  In less than a minute, you have a slightly fizzy (like denture cleanser!), flavored (NOT like denture cleanser!) electrolyte-replacement drink.

One key difference between Nuun and a product like Gatorade is that Nuun doesn’t contain any carbohydrates.   For me, this makes Nuun a good choice for post-workout electrolyte replacement when my activity duration is under 60-75 minutes and my sweat rate is very high (in cooler conditions, water is sufficient for me).  I appreciate the light, not-too-sweet flavors, and the fizziness provides some tongue-tingling variety.

There are a few types of Nuun:  Nuun All Day, U Natural, and Nuun Active Hydration.  The first two are basically designed for people who want to flavor their water (U Natural also contains vitamins, but I’d suggest you eat some fresh produce instead).  I’ll leave you to make your own decision on those.  Nuun Active Hydration is the product targeted for athletes, and that is what we use.  I haven’t tried all the flavors (11 in total), but of those I’ve tried, the Lemon Tea is my favorite.

Nuun is only sold in tablets (not liquid) form – so you won’t be generating plastic bottle waste – and the tablets are super portable.  The price point is also pretty sweet if you’re in the US: Tablets are sold in a canister of 12.  I paid $6-8 USD for one canister at a local running store, and you can buy 4 canisters for ~$20 USD at  Unfortunately, this is one item we neglected to stock up on before leaving for Singapore, but it looks like Nuun is sold at Athlete’s Circle, one canister for $13.50 SGD ($11 USD) – although I haven’t yet confirmed this, and don’t know what their selection is like.

I should note that I don’t use Nuun during a workout – I’ve tried, but the residual fizziness leads to unwanted burping and stomach gurgling, for me.  I suppose that I could try dissolving the tablet the night before my morning workout, to give the fizzies lots of time to settle – but I haven’t tried that yet.  But speaking of experiments and tablet dissolution, KMN decided to get all science-y yesterday morning:

Holly's Nuun

Holly’s approach: Fill glass with water, add tablet, wait 1 minute, add ice, enjoy some refreshing electrolyte replacement.

KMN's Nuun

KMN’s approach: Fill glass with 2″ of water, add ice to the tippy top, add tablet, look dismayed as tablet sits, mostly undissolved, at the bottom of the glass.

Someone clearly skipped the “Solutions and Solubility” chapter in his Chemistry textbook.  But he is persistent, and after considerable warming, poking, stirring, and coaxing (experiential learning, folks!), he, too, could claim dissolution success:

"See?  It worked!"

KMN: “See? It worked!”  We’ll see which method he chooses next time…  🙂

What’s your preferred electrolyte-replacement product?  

If you use Nuun, can you drink it during a workout?  Any tips??

*I’m not a nutritionist or an MD.  Obviously, please use common sense, listen to your body, and seek medical attention for acute symptoms of dehydration (extreme thirst, confusion, very dry mouth, fever, lack of sweating).

**I was not compensated, sponsored, or even asked to provide a review or endorsement of Nuun.  I purchased, drank, and wrote about Nuun on my own volition (and at my own expense).

7 thoughts on “Good Hydration Habits, and KMN Does Science

  1. Elena Tartaglia

    At the level of exercise I do right now, I can’t justify anything but water. In the summer when I work outside and pour sweat for five or six hours a day, I drink coconut water or on occasion, VERY dilute gatorade. Full strength gatorade is for hangovers only, and only in conjunction with a huge iced coffee. Though I am rarely hungover any more because I don’t get wasted much these days, thankfully.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      At this point, you’re right – you probably don’t need anything more than some water for your current workouts. You need that when your workout is more like the equivalent of fieldwork for 5-6 hours outside. 😉 For some strange reason, I can’t drink coconut water. The flavor is pretty mild, but for some reason it makes me gag. If you’re looking for another option, Nuun actually might be a good one. It’s significantly less overpowering than Gatorade, but still with plenty of ‘lytes.

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