The overall health benefits of drinking water cannot be denied. However, it’s also important to know that drinking water during your workout is an essential part of preventing dehydration. Sports drinks are very popular substitutes for simply drinking water. But they can also be expensive and add weight-gaining calories and sugars to your diet.
Why It’s Important to Drink Water During Exercise
Water helps regulate body temperature during exercise by creating sweat. As your heart rate increases and your metabolism burns nutrients for energy, your body temperature increases. Sweat cools the body, and the more you sweat the more fluids you lose.
Drinking plenty of water during exercise not only keeps the body cool and protects against heat exhaustion, but also prevents dehydration. Even if you become only slightly dehydrated, your body can switch to conservation-mode and start retaining water to provide for essential organ and tissue function. You can become bloated and fatigued instead of energized and comfortable.
How Water Prevents Workout Dehydration and Fatigue
In addition to providing hydration, water also gives your body nutrients. Those nutrients amount to energy, healthy body function, and adequate cooling during physical exercise. Even if your choice of workout doesn’t appear to make you sweat, like swimming, you are using fluid as you workout and need to hydrate.
Begin by drinking a glass of water before your workout and continue to drink throughout your workout to prevent dehydration. If you are exercising in higher altitudes, your body will use more fluids than lower altitudes and need constant replenishing to prevent dehydration. Temperature can also increase the rate at which your body uses fluids. When working out in the heat, be sure to drink lots of extra water.
Because it has no added sugars or flavorings, the water will do a great job of quenching your thirst, and you may feel you’re hydrated. But keep drinking anyway. Thirst is typically a sign of dehydration.
What Amount of Water Prevents Dehydration
Adequate hydration is different for everyone, so how much you need during exercise will be very individual. Key factors for determining how much water you should drink are:
- your typical fluid loss
- intensity of workout
- duration of workout
Weigh yourself just before your workout and again at the end of your workout. Real weight loss doesn’t occur during the workout, so if you’ve lost weight, chances are you’re dehydrated and should increase the amount of water you are drinking during your exercise. If you’ve gained weight during your workout, you may be overhydrated and can reduce your water intake. Keep track of what you drink during each workout so you have a reference point or “normal level” to add or subtract from.
For longer workouts or higher intensity workouts, increase your water consumption above your normal level. Remember, 6 to 8 glasses of water a day is considered healthy for optimal body function. If your exercising, you need to increase that number.