Lack of proper hydration can put you at risk for dehydration, cramps and lack of energy, as well as other serious health problems such as heat stroke, especially during the warmer months. That’s why it’s important to remember to hydrate regularly to avoid complications and injuries.
Not getting enough water can affect your athletic performance, especially if you have a cardio workout scheduled. Studies have shown that going into an activity with just 2-3% underhydration levels reduces strength by at least 2%, power by about 3%, and high-intensity endurance by about 10% . Drinking water before putting your heart into intense activity is crucial. So you should aim to fully hydrate your body within an hour of starting your workout, as drinking water only starts the hydration process.
It takes some time before the water reaches all the parts of the body that need hydration. The best way to tell if you are hydrated before a workout is to check the color and amount of urine. If you urinate several times in the hours before your workout and the fluid is clear and yellow, your body’s fluid levels are probably fine.
How much you need to drink to achieve this depends on various factors, such as muscle size and mass, so you may have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you. You can also drink about 250-350ml of fluid about 20 minutes before activity if you feel the need to replenish.
Once you start your workout, it’s a good idea to drink some water at all times. You should aim to drink 150 ml of fluid every 20 minutes or so during exercise, unless you are just too full and can’t handle that amount. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have some drink with you, and a filter bottle can be a good alternative. If you are training hard and it is very hot, you may drink even more, and easier training in cooler conditions results in drinking less. The more you sweat, the more your body loses water, so if you are already “wet” during your workout, you may want to increase your water intake.
The big problem with hydrating during a workout is that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated enough to get a slightly lower performance. You’re fine, but your workout won’t be optimal. So if you’re concerned about performance, try to take regular water breaks before you feel thirsty.
The only time you may not want to drink during a workout is right before a very intense exercise, such as a set of 50 burpees. In sensitive people, this can trigger nausea or reflux, or at least cause discomfort. So control your drinking breaks and don’t consume large amounts right before a particularly intense set.
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If you’re worried about hydration, it’s a good idea to weigh yourself before and after your workout. This way you know exactly how much water you have lost. Athletes usually weigh themselves before and after training and hydrate accordingly. Recommended after exercise is at least 500 ml of fluid for every kilogram lost during exercise.
You don’t have to step on the scale every time you exercise, but if you know that you lose 500 ml of water during a spinning class, you know for the future that you need to drink about 500 ml of water after each exercise.
Don’t exceed the recommended guidelines, especially if you are doing a very long endurance workout such as a three-hour run or cycle.
There is a condition known as hyponatremia caused by very low blood sodium levels. This can happen when large amounts of sodium are lost due to sweating or in combination with drinking large amounts of plain water at the same time. In other words, when your body loses a lot of sodium through sweat and you drink large amounts of water, your blood becomes too diluted. Symptoms include nausea and/or vomiting, confusion, lethargy, irritability and/or muscle cramps.
To avoid this, take a sports drink or electrolyte tablet to replenish your sodium levels. Unless you’re an endurance athlete logging workouts of 90 minutes or longer, you probably don’t need to worry about this.
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