We all know that we need to drink more water when doing physical activity, particularly in a hot climate or when doing a very intense work out, but do we need to be drinking during our workout, or is it simply enough to drink before and after?
When to drink water?
Whether you need to drink during your workout is dependent on a number of factors. Firstly, how long you are exercising for, how intense your workout is and the air temperature at which you are working out as these will all effect how much fluid you are losing through sweat.
In general it is recommended to drink small to moderate amounts of fluid during a workout, to keep you performing at your peak and minimize the need to replace so much fluid when you finish working out.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking water during exercise as well as before and after to promote proper hydration and in order to replace water loss through sweating at a similar rate to that at which it is lost.
However, some people do find that they do not tolerate water well during their exercise, finding they get cramps or find it uncomfortable in the stomach. If this is the case, it is important to make up this extra fluid before and after your workout.
Alternatively, try to have small sips of water at regular intervals, but keep the volume small as this will be tolerated better. For most people, although there is a benefit of drinking during a workout, before and after a workout will be sufficient to maintain good hydration. However, in the case of very long or extreme events it may be necessary to hydrate during an event.
The benefits of drinking water
Good hydration is important not only for overall health, but also for performance in sport. Many people underestimate their fluid requirements and are constantly dehydrated. When you are well hydrated your heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood around the body, so nutrients and oxygen that are required to feed the muscles whilst working out can be transported with less effort.
This means it is a lot easier to exercise hard when you are hydrated well and maintain this level of hydration as you work out.
Water is the ideal way to hydrate the body as it is easily accessible, cheap and contains no calories, so it will not contribute to weight gain. For most people, water will be sufficient to provide fluid to replace that lost in a workout. However, in the case of those doing longer events of an hour or more, some form of carbohydrate containing drink, such as a sports drink, may be beneficial to keep energy levels high.
Aside from enhancing physical performance, water plays a key part in the body, with 60% of total body weight and 75% of muscle mass attributable to water. It works to cushion and protect vital organs, helps to control the body temperature and aids the digestive system, as well as maintaining the balance of electrolytes required for cell processes. See also: Does water make you lose weight
Symptoms and prevention of dehydration
Dehydration can have a number of negative effects on the body and can cause symptoms that will negatively affect your ability to train well. Signs of dehydration include chills and clammy skin, a high heart rate, nausea and headache, dizziness, shortness of breath and a dry mouth, all of which will have a negative effect on your training. If dehydration becomes extreme it can lead to heat exhaustion or stroke, muscle cramping and fatigue and even break down of muscle mass and death.
To avoid dehydration, drink before, during and after a workout, and regularly throughout the day. It is also important to prevent excessive water loss through sweat by wearing appropriate clothing for the climate and not working out in very high temperatures. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink, as this is a sign that you are already dehydrated.
How much water?
How much water you need varies greatly from person to person, depending on body mass and physical activity levels as well as climate. When working out, it is generally recommended that you consume 15 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours before starting a workout, as this gives time to excrete any excess fluid.
Fifteen minutes before you start, you should then drink another 8 to 10 ounces and then continue to drink another 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of physical activity if possible.
For the best hydration possible, it is recommended that you weight yourself before and after a workout to calculate the body mass lost through sweat. If you are losing weight, it is likely that you need to drink more to maintain hydration. It is important to remember that hydration needs to be maintained daily and not just when you are working out. The amount of fluid needed per day varies greatly from person to person, however as a general rule you should try to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that fluids should be drunk at a temperature of between 59 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum fluid replacement.
References used in this article