Have you been hydrating right? Whether you're an avid athlete or simply enjoy working out, hydration is key – hydrating properly, that is. Seems simple, just drink more water, right? But how do you stay hydrated while focusing on your form, speed, distance and other success benchmarks?
Here’s a breakdown of the basics, like why hydration is as important for top performance as getting enough protein for muscle recovery — as well as how to stay hydrated before, during and after your sweat sessions.
Why is Hydration Important?
About 60% of the human body is water. That means more than half of you is good old H2O! When an athlete exerts themselves during training or at an event, they sweat out a lot of that water, and even more of it exits the body through the lungs. Exercising in extreme heat or at higher altitudes can speed up fluid loss, and cold temps can make it harder to gauge hydration levels.
Dehydration occurs when that fluid is not replaced regularly throughout the period of exertion. Losing as little as 2% of your body weight during exercise can cause:
- Less blood pumping through the body with each heartbeat
- Less oxygen reaching your muscles
- Toxic by products of exercise not getting flushed from the body
- Lowered performance, fatigue, cramps, headaches, dizziness, confusion
How Much Water Should I Drink?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how much water an athlete should consume because age, weight and workout intensity all factor into each person’s optimal hydration levels. Experts generally agree that about half an ounce of water per pound of body weight is a good baseline for daily intake. That means a 160-pound person needs roughly 80 ounces, or 10 eight-ounce glasses, of water every day.
This number must be adjusted on workout days to accommodate for the extra fluid loss from exertion.
How to Stay Hydrated During Intense Workouts
Timing is crucial for staying hydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re likely already dehydrated. And simply quenching that feeling won't solve the problem. To prepare for a workout and avoid dehydration follow these general guidelines while exercising:
- Two hours before a workout, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.
- 20 to 30 minutes before the workout, drink another eight ounces.
- During your workout, drink eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes.
- After the session, consume 16 to 24 ounces of water over the course of the next hour.
What do I Drink?
Optimal Hydration Chart:
Here’s a breakdown on the do’s and don’ts of how to stay hydrated while training or competing.