How Much Water Should I Drink When Exercising?
If you are interested in how much water you should drink, pre, during and post workout, this article discusses everything you need to know to stay hydrated and make the most from your workouts with a properly hydrated body.
Whether you work out at home or in the gym, love to run, cycle or participate in any sporting activity, it will require you to think about your water intake. It’s all too easy to forget how important water is for exercise…
When we exercise our bodies have a natural cooling down process, we sweat!
Sweating is our bodies way of cooling us down, it does this by leaving a layer of moisture on the skin, intense workouts and sporting activities can make the body lose up to a litre of water an hour through sweating, more so when it’s hot and humid. This is great for burning off the calories, but It can significantly affect performance if you are not hydrating yourself before, through, and after your workouts.
Losing a litre of water equates to a 2% weight loss and a 2% weight loss can lead to a 20% loss in performance, that’s 1/5th of your total workout performance lost from not hydrating yourself properly.
General Health Benefits
Water has many health benefits including:
Pain prevention – Even being slightly dehydrated can cause pain in the joints, cramps and strains can occur.
Skin – Keeping your body hydrated will help keep those wrinkles away! Water flushes out toxins that can cause the skin to inflame, which results in clogged pores and acne.
Hangover cure – If you had a heavy weekend – Making sure you rehydrate yourself in the morning can help relieve the pounding headaches left from the night before.
Aids Digestion – Drinking water before or after a meal aids digestion, water along with other liquids help break down the foods in our digestive tract, helping our body absorb the nutrients from the food. Water helps reduce constipation by softening the stools.
Exercise-Hydration and Muscles
We don’t want to start a workout in a dehydrated state, as we know it affects our performance but how does water affect your muscles.
- We need water to transport nutrients to the cells and take out waste
- Water helps form the structures of protein and glycogen
- If our bodies are dehydrated, it becomes difficult for our muscles to flex and move, you are much more likely to get cramps
- Muscles are controlled by nerves, if you become dehydrated our water and electrolyte balance will suffer, this can lead to decreased strength
- Muscle tone can be affected by dehydration, our muscle will not contract properly.
Start drinking about 2 hours before you train, I sometimes hydrate right up to the workout but don’t overdo it, 600mls is enough in those 2 hours pre-workout, roughly a small bottle of drinking water is cool.
It’s important if your exercise includes running, try and drink water beforehand, it’s much easier to have a few sips of water when you are on a bike but a lot more difficult if you are running.
This depends on the sport, the intensity and the duration of the exercise, “If you want to maintain full intensity level through training you must replace 80% lost during exercise” says Andy Wadsworth, author of Strength and Fitness Training
Try and drink around 400ml – 800ml an hour if training lasts longer than an hour.
It’s best to drink before you feel thirsty when exercising, if you only drink when you are thirsty your body has already started to become dehydrated.
When you’re hitting the weights, your sessions should be no longer than 40 minutes to an hour, so us guys should be drinking plain water throughout our workouts, 2 glasses worth, 400ml max.
We have no need for the extra isotonic solutions a long distance runner might need who can train for hours.
If you are exercising for longer periods of time you might want to try:
- Isotonic – Best for middle to long distance running and team events. Provides the body with glucose the body’s preferred source of energy.
- Hypotonic – Typically contains less than 4g of carbs, the body absorbs hypotonic drinks slightly quicker than water. More for recreation sports or sports needing less physical exertion, car racing etc.
- Hypertonic – Its main purpose is to provide energy, a top-up of carbs, containing over 8g per 100ml, taken up slower than water, it is normally used as an exercise drink taken 30 – 60 mins before or after exercise.
After a workout it’s great to get a fast efficient recovery, it’s recommended we drink about 1.5 litres of water for every kg we lose. Not many of you will lose a kg after a workout, that’s the recommended amount.
I would recommend after a good workout, slowly drink another 500ml, this should be enough to replenish your thirst and hydrate you if you have already been drinking water throughout your workout.
Replenishing the salt reserves must be your top priority as sodium has good fluid retention capacity which keeps up the urge to drink water. Fluid consumption, containing carbohydrates, salts and water, must continue up to 5-6 hours after the activity.
Watch you don’t overhydrate yourself, by drinking too much! This can cause dizziness, your blood becomes too diluted, sodium levels would have become dangerously low, at worst can cause a coma, if you think you are, STOP drinking and eat something salty