It simply can’t be stated enough that hydration is the backbone to effectively exercising. Providing your body with sufficient fluids before, during and after physical activity produces a wide variety of health enhancements, ranging from avoiding serious injuries to relieving sore muscles to transporting nutrients that keep your energy levels up. But staying hydrated during your workout doesn’t have to be limited to drinking tons of water throughout the day. There are plenty of alternative methods in addition to regular water consumption that will enhance your exercise training and boost your overall health. Here’s a quick overview into how hydration helps you get the most out of physical activity, as well as other ways to effectively hydrate in addition to water:
Why hydration is important
Even the slightest inclination of dehydration can prove drastic to your body. According to the Human Performance Research Center, even if just one percent of your body weight is dehydrated while working out, you may experience increased cardiovascular strain and decreased ability to transfer heat within the body, which can result in heat-related injuries for your muscles. To put it simply, hydration is essential for exercise, so your body can regulate body temperature, lubricating your joints as well as converting energy from nutrients.
There are plenty of symptoms that can be associated with a lack of fluid consumption before your workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, detecting the following symptoms can be signs that you’re mildly or moderately dehydrated:
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Reduced urine output
- Severe headaches or dizziness
- Dry and sticky mouth
- Extreme thirst
In addition to these symptoms, there are essentially two ways to monitor how hydrated you are while exercising. The first factor is your urine color, and the darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you probably are. The second indicator is sweat loss. Obviously, the more you sweat, the less hydrated you stay, so if you’re finding yourself completely drenched, take a break and consume some much needed water.
How much water is enough?
Those who are concerned about hydration affecting their workout should be monitoring their water intake from the second they wake up. According to the American Council on Exercise, approximately two to three hours before you plan on exercising, you should have already consumed between 17 and 20 ounces of water for the day. Prior to your official workout or during your warm-up routine, you should consume another 8 ounces of fluid, and for every 15 minutes during physical activity, 7 to 10 ounces of fluids should be ingested. Within the first half-hour after leaving the gym, you should drink an additional 8 ounces of water, and as for the rest of the day, the ACE says to consume 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.
Excessive fluid intake
Of course, there is such thing as being overhydrated, and the results can occasionally be devastating. One of the biggest risks associated with consuming too much water before or during physical activity is hyponatremia, which is when the body isn’t receiving enough sodium because it’s been flushed out of your system. General symptoms of hyponatremia usually include headache, vomiting and swelling of the hands and feet, which is why you should cease working out once these symptoms have been detected. While hyponatremia is considered rare, the cases of the disorder usually involve endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners. Whether you’re a jogger or a marathon trainer, measuring and controlling your water intake is crucial to avoid this unfortunate condition.
Sports drinks or water?
Perhaps the biggest question when it comes to effectively hydrating while working out is whether sports drinks are a sufficient substitute for water. While there are certainly a few types of sport drinks out there that aren’t loaded in calories, carbohydrates and sugar, the fact of the matter is that water always has the upper hand on sports drinks when it comes to proper hydration. According to Harvard Medical School, while some sports drinks may provide your body with more electrolytes, they often contain unnecessary calories, which may produce a negative impact upon your workout. The verdict seems to be that water is always the best way to play it safe when it comes to avoiding dehydration.
Alternative ways to hydrate
While water may be the key to effective hydration, what you put into your diet before and after a workout also can make a positive impact. According to the Institute of Medicine, 20 percent of your water intake should be delivered from foods. If you’re looking for some quality snacks that will help your hydration, consider celery stalks, which are made up of 95 percent water and bursting with healthy vitamins and minerals. Fruits such as watermelon and strawberries are also made up of more than 90 percent water, and feature plenty of antioxidants in addition.