Whatever your fitness regimen is – morning jogs, burning tons of calories at the gym, or hitting a spin class – keeping hydrated is of paramount importance. Not having enough water before, during or after your workout routine can lead to dehydration, which happens when you lose more water than you take in. Dehydration's effects on your body and performance can range from mild to severe.
The loss of water through sweat produced by exercising makes hydration all the more necessary. But what does it take to be properly hydrated?
Proper hydration is not only necessary during exercise, but before and after as well. Water does a lot of things – it provides lubrication to the joints, transports nutrients all over the body to keep you energized, and, most importantly, regulates your body temperature. Proper hydration means longer athletic endurance and a lower chance of feeling negative symptoms like fatigue, cramps or dizziness while working out.
In this post, we discuss the benefits of proper hydration, dehydration cues to look out for, and ways to ensure optimal hydration and athletic recovery before, during, and after a physical activity.
The Benefits of Proper Hydration
Most people are not fully aware of how proper hydration affects athletic performance. Unlike diet plans and adequate sleep, water is often overlooked and underestimated as part of a good fitness program. Below, we discuss why water is just as important as nutrition and sleep, and why you should start practicing proper hydration for optimum health and athletic success.
Fatigue is the most noticeable sign of dehydration. Dehydration decreases blood volume, which in turn makes it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. This hampers the transport of much needed oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body, which in turn makes you feel lethargic and reduces your motivation. Although water does not energize the body in the same way that carbohydrates do, it is crucial to transforming those carbohydrates into energy and transporting them to various parts of the body to fuel your workout.
Aids in Weight Loss
Staying properly hydrated is very important if you are serious about losing extra weight. In fact, not getting enough water can actually have the opposite effect; this occurs because a reduction in water intake diminishes the kidneys' effectiveness. When this happens, some of the kidneys' functions are turned over to the liver. However, when the liver takes over, its efficiency to utilize stored fat as usable energy is consequently reduced. Thus, improper or inadequate hydration can actually mean extra weight gain for you.
Helps Repair and Tone Muscles
Exercise makes muscles stronger by breaking them down and rebuilding them through protein synthesis. However, this process requires sufficient hydration to work properly. If there is insufficient hydration, the process will be hampered and will negatively affect muscle recovery. In addition, water is essential to transporting needed nutrients to the muscle cells, and, more importantly, in maintaining electrolyte balances. Electrolyte imbalance is one of the main reasons why our muscles get weak and cramp.
Signs of Insufficient Hydration
When you lose more water than you drink, your body becomes dehydrated. Aside from thirst and dark urine color, there are other signs to watch for in order to gauge dehydration. These may include dizziness, nausea, muscle cramping, bad breath, dry mouth and lips, dry skin, minimal to no sweating, and faster than normal heartbeat. Severe symptoms on the other hand are confusion, weakness and loss of consciousness.
You may also try some easy skin testing – pinch the skin at the back of your hand for a few seconds, and then let go. If you are well hydrated, the skin should return to its normal position immediately. If it takes longer than that, then you may need to address your hydration levels.
How to Hydrate Before, During and After Physical Activity
Hydration Before Your Workout
Starting exercise in a dehydrated state can seriously affect your energy levels. It might also cause you to get stiff muscles or cramps. It is advisable to drink approximately 8 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours prior to exercise. This will also allow your kidneys to process the liquid and give you enough time to empty your bladder before the exercise starts. Your urine should be pale yellow and not clear.
Drink another 5 to 10 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before the physical activity starts. You should only drink water or nutrient-rich fluids such as non-fat milk, fresh juice or a sports drink. If the exercise will last more than 1 hour, it is advisable to drink a carbohydrate-rich drink to prevent fatigue. Water stored in a copper bottle can offer a lot of help too, as copper ions are known to be excellent electrolytes.
Hydration During Your Workout
Proper fluid consumption during exercise depends on how long the exercise will last. The ideal amount to consume is also dependent on your weight before and after exercise. By knowing your weight, you can estimate how much water to consume to remain hydrated throughout your workout.
For example, assume that you only consumed 8 ounces of water during a 60 minute workout. Upon weighing yourself after the workout, you notice a loss of 2 pounds. As a general rule, you need to drink an additional 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost, which means that your fluid requirement during your workout was actually in the vicinity of 32 to 48 ounces. A helpful rule of thumb is to drink between 6 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.
If the exercise is intense or might last more than an hour, ordinary water may not be enough. In these cases, it may be helpful to consume a fluid with carbohydrates and electrolytes so as to avoid decreased performance, dehydration and fatigue. This can also help prevent hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Replenishing electrolytes lost during sweating is also essential. Salt tablets (diluted with water) is always a good solution. Drinking water stored in copper vessels is also a great way to replace electrolytes lost due to sweating.
Hydration After Your Workout
Again, weighing yourself is a helpful way to determine the amount of fluid you need after an exercise session. If your body weight has increased, that means you have overhydrated and need less fluid intake in the next workout.
Thirst is not the best indicator when it comes to measuring dehydration post-exercise. The better way to assess your hydration levels after your workout is to check the colour of your urine. If you have not urinated a few hours after your exercise, or your urine is not pale yellow, you need to hydrate more. It is not advisable to start a new physical activity without ensuring that you have already achieved good hydration levels.
It is also important to replace lost carbohydrates, sodium and electrolytes post-workout. In addition, your fluid consumption should be distributed evenly and continue up to 6 hours after your workout.
The principle of hydration is simple – whatever you put out, you need to put back in. Proper hydration can have a huge impact on your physical and mental performance. Plan ahead and always make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. Lastly, keep in mind that you lose more than just water when you sweat, so it would be wise to level up your hydration strategy by also taking into account your electrolyte and carbohydrate levels.
Our handcrafted water bottles are made from 100% pure copper. When water is stored in these copper bottles it absorbs copper ions which can in turn be beneficial in replacing lost electrolytes. Available in two sizes, our water bottles can assist you in staying hydrated before, during, and after physical activity.
About the Authors: This article was collaboratively written by our team of researchers and writers with the benefit of all available scientific studies and other relevant literature. Our team of researchers and writers include experienced health researchers including a qualified medical professional. Please note that information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.