Proper Hydration Helps You Go the Distance

LKR043053Is it best to hydrate before, during, or after your workout? The answer is all of the above. Proper hydration is an important part of your athletic performance—from preparation to recovery.

If you’re preparing for a big event—such as a long-distance run, bike ride, hike, or a grueling game of soccer or basketball—to hydrate the day before is key. Then, on the day of the event or outing, drink one to three cups of water before you get going. Continue to drink regularly while you’re active to replenish fluids lost to sweat and exertion. And when you’re finished for the day, keep hydrating with water and other beverages!

What Should I Drink?

Plain water can go a long way toward hydration, before, during, and after exercise. If you are exercising continuously for one hour or longer, sweating a lot, or exercising in extreme heat, you may benefit from drinking a beverage with electrolytes, like a sports drink. If you do choose a sports drink, check the label to make sure you’re not getting too much sugar, more calories than desired, unwanted caffeine, or any other undesired ingredients.

How Do I Know if I’m Hydrated?

If you’re drinking enough fluids, you’ll be urinating regularly. Your urine will be light in color because it’s sufficiently diluted with fluids. You’ll also feel alert, energetic, and well in general.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

In addition to infrequent urination or urine that is concentrated and dark in color, you may be dehydrated if you experience:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Measuring Fluid Loss During Exercise

You can measure how much fluid replacement you need after exercise by comparing weight change before and after your workout. It’s best to measure weight after urination, before eating, and before your exercise session. After exercising, weigh yourself again, using the same scale. For example, if your pre-exercise weight is 200 pounds and post-exercise weight is 198 pounds, then you know you’ve had a two-pound fluid loss.

To replenish fluid lost during exercise, drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluids for each pound lost. In the example above, 32 to 48 ounces of fluids are the estimated amount needed to replace the two pounds lost during activity.

If your pre- and post-exercise weights are the same, it’s likely that you drank enough during exercise to offset fluid loss. If, on the other hand, your post-workout weight is greater, you may have taken on too much fluid, which can also cause complications; specifically, a condition known as hyponatremia, which means sodium concentration in the blood is too diluted by excess fluid.

Reference: Hydrate Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7084. Accessed July 15, 2014.