Water Recommendations For Exercise

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Proper hydration is essential to any exercise program. The longer you train and the higher the intensity, the more water you need to take in. However, over hydrating can cause health issues. Knowing how much water to take in during training will keep you well hydrated and your system functioning properly.

To lead a healthy life, you need the most important ingredient: water. It transports nutrients while eliminating waste. Water also regulates your body temperature, facilitates digestion, and keeps your joints and tissue moist. Athletes often face two issues with water: dehydration and hyponatremia, or water intoxication.

Dehydration
Many athletes don’t drink enough fluids before and during training. A loss of 2% body weight or more due to water loss will decrease your blood volume. The drop leads to cramping in muscles, dizziness, fatigue, and even heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Inadequate fluid intake, excessive sweating, or exercising in dry, hot weather causes dehydration.

You can identify dehydration through these symptoms:

  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Skin that holds a lighter color after applying pressure
  • Nausea
  • Higher body temperature
  • Labored breathing 

Hyponatremia
Some recreation exercisers, especially distance trainers and bodybuilders, risk water intoxication by consuming excessive amounts of water. This causes sodium levels in your blood to drop to abnormally low levels. When this happens, your cells begin to swell because your body water level rises. This swelling can lead to mild to severe health issues.

Water intake for exercise
Knowing the right amount of fluid to take in during training depends on a number of key elements:

  • Duration and intensity: endurance sports or sports performed at a very intense level require more fluid intake. Drink small amounts of fluid frequent throughout the duration of your training.
  • Sweat: some people sweat more than others. If you tend to perspire heavily, then you need to consume more fluids to replenish what has been lost.
  • Temperature: hot weather or higher temperatures indoors cause you to lose more fluids. However, exercising in cold weather can impair your ability to recognize the amount of fluid you lose. It is important to keep hydrate in extreme weather conditions.

Monitoring your hydration
You can go by two simple methods when monitoring your water intake.

  • Urine: monitor your urine output and color. A well-hydrated person outputs a large amount of light yellow to clear urine. If you urinate infrequently, or output dark yellow urine, then you need to take in more fluids.
  • Weight: weigh yourself before and after exercise. A fluctuation in plus or minus 2% weight means you are either over hydrated or under hydrated.

General fluid intake guidelines

  • 15 minutes before exercise: drink 10 fluid ounces
  • During exercise: drink 10 ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of training
  • After exercise: weigh yourself and replace any fluid lost during training. Drink 20 ounces for every 0.5-kilos lost.
  • To replenish your glycogen stores, consume a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within the first 30 minutes after training. This will help you recover along with your water intake.

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