Water is the most essential component of our bodies. Over half of our body is composed of water. Water helps our bodies function. More specifically it helps with temperature regulation, nutrient transportation, elimination of waste, blood pressure and circulation maintenance, body tissue and joint lubrication, and aids in digestion. Wowza! As you can see, staying hydrated is SUPER important for our health and well being. When we exercise, our body temperature goes up, and in order to get rid of the higher temperature, we sweat. Sweat is mostly composed of water and electrolytes. Since we do sweat when we exercise, exercise can lead to large amounts of water and salt loss, and can even lead to dehydration or hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood) if we do not replace the fluid that we lose. This can lead to a decrease in exercise/sports performance and/or health. In other words, if we stay hydrated before, during and after exercise, we will boost our performance and feel better.
Checking Hydration Status:
When you feel thirsty, you are headed towards dehydration, so it is important that you drink before your body feels thirsty. An easy way to measure hydration status is by the color of your urine. If your urine is a light or an almost clear color, then you are properly hydrated. The darker your urine, the more dehydrated you are. Another way to assess your hydration status is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. The amount of weight you lose right after exercise will most likely be from sweat loss and show you what your fluid needs are to maintain hydration. Over a 1% of body weight lost indicates dehydration and a 5% loss indicates serious dehydration.
Below are general guidelines for hydration taken from the Academy of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Remember that everyone’s needs are different. If you feel like you need more or less fluid, then adjust accordingly.
HYDRATION BEFORE EXERCISE
Check your hydration status before exercise because there is a wide variability in fluid needs for each person.
• Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage at least four hours before exercise.
• Drink 8-12 fluid ounces of water 10-15minutes before exercise.
Consuming a beverage with sodium (salt) and/or small meal helps to stimulate thirst and retain fluids.
HYDRATION DURING EXERCISE
• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15- 20 minutes when exercising for less than 60 minutes.
• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of a sports beverage (5-8 percent carbohydrate with electrolytes) every 15-20 minutes when exercising greater than 60 minutes.
***Do not drink more than one quart/hour during exercise.
HYDRATION GUIDELINES AFTER EXERCISE
Obtain your body weight and check your urine to estimate your fluid losses. The goal is to correct your losses within two hours after exercise.
• Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage for every one pound lost
Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, which will replenish your sugar needs and electrolytes, which will help speed up rehydration. The longer you are exercising, the more of a need there is to drink a sports beverage. When you are exercising at a high intensity for more than an hour, or at a lower intensity for longer amounts of time, carbohydrate consumption helps to improve your exercise performance. One half to one whole liter of sports drink per hour is needed to maintain hydration. Make sure the sports drink that you choose does not exceed 8% carbohydrate concentration.
Did you know that you can drink too much water during exercise also?! Surprisingly, this is a common problem in a lot of marathons. If you drink too much water during exercise, your body contains too much water, and your sodium levels can plummet to dangerous levels. Confusion, behavioral changes, drowsiness, muscle cramps, and weight gain, are a few of the side effects of overhydration. To prevent overhydration, do not consume more than 1 liter per hour of fluid while exercising.
I hope this helps! Good luck and remember to stay hydrated!