Big gulps, huh?
Even running rookies know that hydrating pre- and post-run is a must, but, it turns out it’s not just how much but it’s also how you consume water that can make a difference. Here’s what Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a certified specialist in sports dietetics, said last week in the New York Times’ Well Blog.

How we drink can make a difference in how optimally we hydrate our body. A lot of people sip liquids, but gulping is better. Gulps of fluid leave the stomach more rapidly. It’s important to do this. It seems counterintuitive, it seems like gulping would cause a cramp. People are more likely to have stomach cramps sipping because fluid stays in their gut too long.

When you take more fluid in, gulps as opposed to sips, you have a greater volume of fluid in the stomach. That stimulates the activity of the stretch receptors in the stomach, which then increase intra-gastric pressure and promote faster emptying. This is why gulping is preferred.

About an hour before the workout you should have about 20 ounces of liquid. It takes about 60 minutes for that much liquid to leave the stomach and make its way into the muscle. If you have liquid ahead of time, you’ll be better hydrated when you start to be physically active.

But, as one of the post’s comments points out, this explanation is in line with this 2008 study that found The speed at which water is ingested may affect how much water you actually retain. Here’s where the lit review of a 2008 study evaluating the benefits of water weighs in:

[Other studies] indicate that water retention in the body is variable and depends on the speed with which water is ingested—if it is gulped quickly, water is more likely to be excreted, while if it is sipped slowly, it is retained in the body.

But, according to the same study, the advantages of gulping versus sipping your H20 might be slightly overstated. The researchers continue by saying:

However, no studies have documented any sort of benefit to organs based on increased water intake, regardless of speed.

Though, regardless of how or how fast you’re drinking it, there are certainly benefits to water intake when it comes to your health and performance as a runner.

Bonci goes on to say that there will be some variation in the amount of water people need, based on varying sweat rates and 8 ounces per hour — which is what most people consume — is not sufficient fuel. A lack of water could increase your risk of heat or joint injury and can diminish strength, speed and stamina.

So, whether you’re gulping or sipping, let those fluids flow!