If you participate in any small form of exercise or sport, you’ll know you need to drink water. But most people don’t realise exactly how important staying hydrated before, during and after exercise, and why.
Whether you’re a serious athlete training for a race or competition, or you’re a casual runner, hydration is vital to your workout performance and health.
In general, water is essential for life. The average human can only survive 3-5 days without water, and it performs various other functions in the body, including:
- Transporting glucose and oxygen into your muscles.
- Serving as a critical component of your brain, blood, muscles, and bones.
- Aiding digestion of food, helping to convert it to energy you can use.
- Removing metabolic by-products like carbon dioxide from your hard-working muscles.
- Regulating body temperature, especially during your workouts when your muscles generate 20 times more heat energy than a body at rest.
Sweating is a natural and common part of exercise. Whether you love it or hate it, sweat is part of a healthy lifestyle. But losing too much sweat can lead to dehydration – unless you actively do something to prevent it. When you’re exercising, you can lose up to 2L of sweat every hour. Sweat is made up of two key elements that our bodies need – water and electrolytes.
Although many people think hydration means to keep drinking water, and whilst they are technically correct, hydration actually means maintaining the right volume of water and electrolytes in your body. It’s all about striking the balance between fluids in and fluids out. Water plays a key role in maintaining body temperature, assisting with digestion and lubricating your tissues and joints. Electrolytes help your body to retain fluid and are essential for nerve and muscle function.
Hydration is important in preventing cramps, increased heart rate, fatigue, impaired concentration and nausea, all things caused by a lack of water and electrolytes. Dehydration can also cost you muscle, since it can negatively impact muscular growth and recovery. Whilst the common recommendation is that most people need 8 glasses of water a day, and that you get 80% of your water intake from food, if you do any workouts that cause you to sweat, you’ll need to increase your water intake to compensate for the fluid loss. Workouts under 60 minutes require an extra 2-3 cups of water. Workouts that are longer, more intense, or both will require more fluid intake.
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