With the warmer weather upon us I wanted to write an article on the importance of staying hydrated. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to many of you that maintaining proper hydration helps you maintain optimal athletic performance. If you become dehydrated, you may experience muscle cramping, fatigue, reduced strength and endurance and slower recovery time. In fact, a loss of just 2% of body water will negatively affect your maximal aerobic capacity by 10-20%!
A key part of maintaining hydration is to ensure you are taking in fluids before, during and after exercise. I’ll break down how much to drink and when to drink it in order to ensure that you are properly hydrated to maintain optimal performance. The exact amounts of fluid will vary among individuals depending on gender, how intensely you are working out, the climate you are exercising in and the type of exercise performed, so I present an approximate range.
Although it may seem surprising, part of maintaining proper hydration during your workout is to consume fluids even before you get started. According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the Dietitians of Canada, the optimal amount of fluid intake prior to exercise is about 400 to 600ml (2 to 3 glasses) approximately 2 hours prior to exercise. This amount and time frame will promote hydration but also allow enough time for excretion of excess fluids.
I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to have a work out and not sip water regularly. My trusty water bottle is a staple in my gym bag and always at arm’s length. In order to maintain proper hydration levels you should be drinking at regular intervals. The recommended amount is approximately 200 to 300ml for every 10-20 minutes of exercise. If you tend to get a queasy feeling in your stomach when you drink then just scale back the amount you take during exercise.
In terms of what to drink, if your exercise will last less than an hour, pure water is sufficient to keep you properly hydrated. For high intensity exercise lasting longer than one hour such as those running half marathons, athletes playing sports matches etc., you will require both a rapid fluid replacement as well as fuel replacement. It is recommended to consume a drink containing 20 to 60g of carbohydrate/hour to maintain blood sugar levels and delay fatigue.
It is equally important to stay hydrated after we complete our workout. Staying adequately hydrated means replacing lost fluids with water. Have you ever weighed yourself after an intensely sweaty workout and jumped for joy that you shed some weight? Well, the weight loss you experienced was due to body water loss. So that weight loss is short lived as you will need to replace that lost water.
According to the Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (Bean, 2012), it is estimated that about 1 litre of sweat is equivalent to 1kg loss in body weight. Therefore you need to drink approximately 1.2 to 1.5 liters of fluid for each kilogram of weight lost during exercise. You do not have to drink this amount all at once though. It’s probably best not to because it will cause a rapid rise in blood volume and promote urination resulting in water loss rather than water absorption. Drink as much as you need and then consume the rest in intervals.
What about sports drinks?
In most cases all you need is water for proper hydration. When fluid losses are high or for those who train multiple times in a day (for example, athletes who are performing in heats), a drink containing a mix of carbohydrate and water may be better than water alone at encouraging hydration. To encourage hydration you will want to look for drinks that contain less than 4g of carbs/100ml. A drink that contains both protein and carbohydrate also helps increase fluid retention over water alone. If you do plan to consume a sports drink check the ingredients. Most of them are loaded with sugar and food colouring.
You can also make your own natural sports drink simply by mixing water with freshly squeezed fruit juice at a ratio of 1:1.
In simple terms, you just gotta become an aquaholic! 🙂
To fitness with love,