Staying hydrated during exercise will help you achieve maximum results from your workout while protecting your overall health. Alternatively, dehydration can mar your performance. Drinking enough fluid—and the right kind of fluid—before, during, and after working out replaces fluid (and possibly electrolytes) naturally lost with sweating. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers for fluid and hydration.
Why do I need to stay hydrated?
Exercise raises body temperature. If you’re working out in a warm or hot environment, and depending upon the type of clothing you’re wearing, you may experience a significantly elevated body temperature resulting in greater losses of fluid and electrolytes. The body sweats as a self-cooling mechanism. Additionally, proper hydration helps prevent muscle cramps and promotes recovery after your workout.
How much fluid do I need each day?
Fluid needs vary widely, and those needs depend upon present weight and height, biological sex, health status, activity level, and ambient temperature. With that, you have likely heard that each person should drink 8 glasses of water a day. The genesis of this advice is uncertain. Furthermore, the advice is irrelevant for many individuals and incorrect for serious athletes and others who engage in endurance training. The Adequate Intake (AI) for the average, healthy person for water is 16 cups daily for males and 12 cups daily for females.
On the other hand, someone exercising vigorously for sustained periods of time might need several additional cups of water to stay hydrated.
How do I stay hydrated for exercise?
Regardless of how much you actually sweat, it is advised that you avoid losing more than 2% of your pre-exercise body weight during exercise. Plan to drink before, during, and after exercise—especially if engaging in sustained vigorous activity. Also add plenty of fruits and vegetables to your diet. These contain water that counts toward your daily goals.
Before exercise: Two hours before the activity, drink 2 cups or 14-22 ounces.
During the workout: Every 15-20 minutes, consume 6-12 ounces.
After exercise: Finally, once your session is complete, replace fluid by having 16-24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost.
What about electrolytes and sports drinks?
We lose electrolytes in our sweat during exercise. To stay on top of electrolyte losses, experts recommend that athletes consume a sports drink that contains about 0.5-0.7 gram per liter of sodium and 0.8-2 gram per liter of potassium during exercise that lasts over two hours.
A Registered Dietitian or a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics can assess your unique needs and provide you with personalized guidance.