Author: Kate Higham
Water is the lifeblood of our bodies, accounting for roughly 60%-75% of our total body weight (1). It plays an indispensable role in almost every function in our bodies, from regulating temperature to transporting nutrients.
Staying hydrated is super important, especially when we’re working out—it’s something that’s often overlooked. Whether you’re a runner giving it your all in a marathon or a yogi trying to nail a challenging pose, staying properly hydrated is the secret sauce to performing your best. It’s all about keeping the fluids in our bodies balanced—it helps us achieve our fitness goals, stay healthy, and recover quickly.
If you’re looking to boost your performance and improve your overall health, it’s important to understand the vital connection between hydration and exercise. Let’s dive in and discover how water powers our workouts and wellness!
Water’s crucial role in performance
Whether you're a pro or just doing it for fun, every sports enthusiast knows what it feels like to be dehydrated. Your muscles start cramping, you can't perform as well, and you feel fatigued faster. In fact, even being a little dehydrated can lower your strength and stamina, affecting how well you can perform. This happens because there’s less oxygen going to your muscles, making you feel tired quicker.
Staying hydrated is also very important in regulating our body temperature. When we work out, our bodies get hot, so we sweat to cool down. But we can't sweat as much and cool down properly if we don't have enough fluids. In severe cases, this can lead to heat-related sicknesses like heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
Hydration and recovery
Post-workout recovery is just as important as the exercise itself. This is the time when your muscles heal and become stronger. Staying hydrated is crucial during this phase as it:
- Helps transport nutrients: Water acts as a vehicle, delivering essential nutrients to your cells that aid in muscle recovery.
- Flushes out waste: Staying hydrated helps eliminate waste products like lactic acid, which build up in muscles during intense workouts.
- Keeps joints lubricated: Drinking enough fluids helps keep your joints lubricated, reducing the risk of injuries and wear and tear.
Research suggests that being well-hydrated after workouts can speed up recovery time, preparing you for your next fitness challenge in no time! (2)
Hydration and general health
Staying hydrated isn't just about doing better in sports or recovering faster. It's also essential for keeping our bodies healthy.
Almost every cell in the body contains water. It comprises 79% of muscles, 73% of the brain, and 31% of bones (3). So, it’s no wonder it plays a significant role in how we function.
- Brain Power: Keeping hydrated means our brains work better. We might find it harder to focus, stay alert, or even remember things when not drinking enough.
- Heart health: Drinking enough water helps keep our heart ticking. It keeps our blood flowing smoothly and lowers the chance of blood clots forming.
- Kidney function: Our kidneys are like nature's cleanup crew. Drinking plenty of water helps them eliminate waste and keeps painful kidney stones away.
- Better digestion: If you’ve ever had problems with digestion or constipation, you know it's not fun. Staying hydrated helps with that, keeping our stomachs happier and digestion smoother.
10 practical tips for staying hydrated
To leverage the full benefits of hydration, it's essential to have a game plan. Here are ten helpful tips to ensure you stay well-hydrated before, during, and after your workouts:
Tip #1: Start Early
Get a head start on hydration by drinking 16-20 oz of water approximately 4 hours before your workout (4). A small meal or fluid with sodium beforehand can also aid in fluid retention.
Tip #2: Sip it!
For short workouts, sipping 7-10 oz every 10-20 minutes is enough (5). No need to gulp!
Tip #3: Go Electro
For intense or long workouts, especially in heat, grab a drink with electrolytes to replace what you lose in sweat.
Tip #4: Post-workout hydration
Drink at least 16-24 oz of water for every pound of weight loss (5). And don’t just wait until you feel thirsty! Thirst is often the first indication of dehydration.
Tip #5: Color check
The color of your urine is a great indicator of hydration. Aim for a pale yellow hue. Darker colors may suggest you need to drink more.
Tip #6: Know your needs
Everyone's water needs are different. Learn what your body needs, considering your age, weight, climate, and how hard your workout is. A general guide is 3.7 liters daily for men and 2.7 for women (6).
Tip #7: Adapt to your environment
Hot climate or high altitude means you need more. So, adjust your intake accordingly.
Tip #8: Eat your water
Yes, really! Water-rich foods like cucumbers, watermelons, and apples can help you stay hydrated while also providing key nutrients. Win, win!
Tip #9: Establish a schedule
Establishing a drinking routine can help keep your hydration levels steady, even when you're not thirsty.
Tip #10: Don’t overdo it
Drinking too much can be harmful, too. Balance is the key.
Remember, these are just guidelines. Always listen to your body and adjust based on your individual needs and circumstances.
In the world of health and fitness, we often focus on diet and workouts. But let's not forget about water – it's simple, yet so essential. Think about it: just as a car needs coolant to run, your body needs water to function at its best.
Water isn’t just for quenching thirst; it's the secret sauce for top-notch performance. So, whether you're a gym regular or just starting your fitness journey, remember: hydration is key! Listen to your body, fuel it with the right amount of water, and watch how it supercharges your workouts and overall health.
- Harvard University. “Biological Roles of Water: Why is water necessary for life?”. Online. harvard.edu
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Hydration to Maximise Performance and Recovery.” Online. ncbi.gov
- US Geological Survey “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body”. Online. Usgs.gov
- Therapeutic Associates “How Much Do You Need To Drink While Exercising?”. Online. therapeuticassociates.com
- The Healthcare Insights: “How Much Water Should You Drink While Working Out.” Online. Thehealthcareinsights.com
- Mayo Clinic: Water: How much should you drink every day?”. Online. mayoclinic.org