Did you know the human body is made up of 60% water? Physiologically, fluids assist in the transportation of oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream, provide lubrication in our joints and cushioning for our organs, and carry heat generated by exercise to the skin where it can be dissipated as sweat to cool the body. An adult loses about 2 liters of fluid per day through sweat, urine, respiration, and bowel movements, and that’s why we often make the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water daily for proper hydration.
But as individuals, we all have different metabolic rates, we all live and exercise in different environments, and we all experience unique rates of sweat loss. Failure to replace lost fluids raises the risk of dehydration and increases the chance athletic performance and even health can be compromised. In addition to water, sweat contains electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that need to be replenished to support optimal fluid balance in the body.
Consider these hydration strategies to help get the most out of your workouts:
PREHYDRATION is a relatively new concept, but the goal is to prevent dehydration from occurring by properly hydrating and assuring normal plasma-electrolyte levels prior to exercise. Prehydrating can be accomplished by drinking water or sports drinks, and by consuming foods with a high water content several hours before exercise. Most of us can benefit by drinking two to three cups of fluid in the hours before exercise.
HYDRATION during exercise helps to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances and to minimize adverse effects on athletic and mental performance. Losing as little as 2% of body weight (or just 3 pounds in a 150-pound person) during exercise has been shown to compromise athletic performance. Drinking cool liquids early and often, and opting for sports drinks that contain electrolytes and energy-sustaining carbohydrates can be beneficial. In hot and humid conditions, you should drink half a cup or more of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes that you exercise.
REHYDRATION after exercise is important to enhance the recovery process and to make up any remaining fluid or electrolyte deficits. In the hours after exercise, try to rehydrate with 2 cups of fluid (yes, 2 cups!) for every pound of weight lost during your workout. If weighing yourself is not an option, checking your urine color is a simple indicator of hydration status. A pale or clear color is usually a sign of proper hydration, whereas a dark yellow or tea-colored urine is a common indicator of dehydration.
So let’s all get out and exercise—and drink up for peak athletic performance!