Hydration During Exercise

Last week I wrote a post about the best times of day to hydrate, and I’m sure it came as no surprise that key times to hydrate include before, during and after exercise. While it’s obvious that exercise requires increased hydration, many people are unaware of just how much water intake directly impacts performance. Improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance, impeding energy and performance.

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Image Rubbermaid Products via Flickr

Sweat is one of the obvious things that happens during a workout; it’s the way our bodies cool down when they start to heat up.  It follows that the more a person sweats, the more water they should drink to replenish. Sweat rates vary by individual and are further influenced by factors including exercise intensity, exercise duration, the climate (including temperature and humidity), and the body’s pre-exercise hydration state.  It’s straightforward to check your individual sweat rate by weighing yourself directly before and after exercise and accounting for exactly how much water you consumed during the workout……you’ll also have to either hold your pee or take your pee-volume into account. You can google “calculating perspiration rate” for more details on how to compute your rate or use a handy sweat rate calculator like this one that I found on the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s website. Another quick metric of proper hydration is to note how often you’re urinating. Ideal hydration leads to urination every 1 – 2 hours, even during exercise.

Depending on your gender, age, size and perspiration rate, you lose about four cups (approximately one liter) of water per hour of exercise.  If you’re working out in a hot climate, you can easily lose up to two litres of water per hour during a cardio session.

Adequate water intake before, during and after exercise does more than replenish water lost from perspiration, it also plays a key function in maintaining blood volume and electrolyte balance. Electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium, are lost from the body with sweat. However, except in extreme cases, losses are small and replacement during exercise is not a priority. ‘Sports drinks’ often contain electrolytes, particularly sodium. These have the effect of stimulating water absorption from the small intestine, which is beneficial during exercise. In addition, after exercise, replacing lost sodium is essential for full recovery and rehydration. Extreme athletes will require fluids from a variety of sources, not just water. However, if you’re not an extreme athlete who requires a sports drink, consider something, without the sugar and calories, that will provide a mild electrolyte boost, such as Glaceau’s smartwater or H2wOw’s all natural water enhancer, with extracts of real fruits and mineral electrolytes.

I had planned to use infogr.am to make a cool graphic that listed how much water the average person needs before, during and after a workout but during my research I found something better than anything I would be able to make! The graphic below is from a post on greatist.com and includes recommendations on how much water to drink while exercising as well as a lot of other great information.

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Make a Small Change That You Can Maintain: Start Each Day With a Glass of Water

I recently read an article in the New York Times, Rise and Shine, about what kids around the world eat and drink for breakfast. As a mom of two young daughters, I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration. I wasn’t overly inspired by the food, much of it sugary and carb-filled, like the typical American breakfast (i.e. bread with butter and sweet sprinkles, Oatmeal with sugar, baguette with butter and jam and sweet cake). However, I was even less inspired by the beverages that children around the globe begin their days with, and surprised that only one of the 11 breakfasts featured in the article included a glass of water! Almost all of the children began their day with milk, chocolate milk or juice, which is probably similar to what happens in the US. Clearly this is just a small sampling but I still find it striking that less than 10% of these children have a glass of water in the morning.  After reading this article, I had to pause and give myself quick kudos for having at least one healthy habit that I’ve managed to pass on to my children 🙂

At my house, we all start the day with a glass of water. I’ve always enjoyed warm water with lemon (or sometimes lemon and honey) first thing in the morning and I make sure my girls have at least one glass of water before they leave the house because I know that they’re not always drinking enough during the day and I try to stay ahead with their hydration. I find that our little ritual of drinking our water together first thing helps us start the day off on the right foot – I am hopeful that doing something good for our bodies in the morning makes us more mindful of making healthy choices and drinking more throughout the day.

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I start my day with a tall glass of lemon water and my girls each chug a short glass of plain H2O. It’s a healthy way to start each day.

Most people know it’s healthy to start the day with a glass of water, but not everyone knows why or remembers to do it. Hydrating in the morning can make you feel more energetic by keeping your metabolism in check, helps remove toxins from your system, improves digestion and stimulates elimination. Having a glass of water first thing and then drinking more throughout the day will help you avoid health issues that may be related to dehydration.

If you don’t like to drink plain water, then try squeezing some lemon, lime or orange into your water. Not only does lemon give water a nice burst of citrus taste but it also provides many health benefits. For a really fast and convenient way to switch up the taste of your water but still keep it super healthy and natural you can also add a few drops of essential oil or try a natural water enhancer like H2wOw.

I know that it may not be a common practice to begin each day with a glass of water but it really should be. It’s such a small and easy change to make and keep but it is also a habit that can make a big difference. My girls and I toast our water glasses each morning — give it a try with your kids too.

How Much Water Do I Need and What Really Counts?

Water is our body’s main component and makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. It’s an essential part of our health since every system in our body depends on it. We should all want to keep our body happy and functioning optimally, and drinking enough water seems like a pretty easy way to make a big impact. But how much is enough? It seems like water intake recommendations change as often as the seasons, as does the list of what actually counts toward the ounces. There is no magic formula but there are general guidelines that should help us stay on track, especially when considered in conjunction with individual lifestyles.

how much H2O do you need? Image courtesy of http://www.cleanwateraction.org

The ‘eight glasses of water a day’ guideline that’s ingrained in my head (and most likely yours), is no longer the right rule of thumb. The most recent report by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (released 2/11/14) includes total water general recommendations for women of approximately 11.5 8-ounce glasses (91 ounces or 2.7 liters), and men approximately 15.5 8-ounce glasses (125 ounces daily or 3.7 liters ).

The truth is…..You need more than 8 cups of water each day photo courtesy of: Rita Maas

These are “general” recommendations for a reason. It should go without saying that water needs depend on many individual factors, including health, age, weight, activity-level, climate and pregnancy / breast-feeding. The following information is probably obvious and really just a matter of common sense:

  • Exercise – If you engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400 to 600 millilitres) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour requires more fluid intake.
  • Climate / Environment – Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves and require additional hydration.
  • Illnesses – When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you need to drink more water to replenish. 
  • Pregnancy & breast-feeding – Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink approximately 13 cups (3 liters or 101 ounces) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 16 cups (3.8 liters or 128 ounces) of fluids a day.

So what exactly counts toward the optimal intake number? It’s also ingrained in my head that beverages like coffee clearly do not count because caffeine is dehydrating, however this is no longer the case. For the most part, current recommendations say that all fluids count toward your daily “water total”. Beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water, and even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee) can contribute, though these beverages should not make up a major portion of your total fluid intake.

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Even wine and coffee contribute to your total water intake Photo courtesy of: Rob Qld/Flickr

And, not only does just about any fluid count, food counts too! On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight. For more on this see my earlier blog post ‘Keeping My Kids Hydrated with Water-Packed Foods‘ I’m a big fan of hydration through healthy foods, especially for those that have a hard time meeting the recommendations through fluids alone.

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Hydrating foods are an awesome way to “drink” your water Image by Mark Laita (courtesy of Runner’s World)

I wouldn’t run out and buy a fancy water tracker just yet, with almost all fluids counting toward the total, along with the water content found in food, the vast majority of healthy people will adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. However. it’s always beneficial to pay attention to your intake and be aware and ready to compensate for changes in your routine or environment that will have your body wanting more. And although the new guidelines allow for lots of creativity in meeting your water intake, remember that basic H2O is still your best bet because it’s the most rehydrating, readily available and inexpensive.

Personally I think gadgets like this Intelligent Water Bottle are a waste of money but if you like gadgets and think it will help you drink more then give it a try
 Check back next week, I’ll be blogging about trace minerals and electrolytes.