Hydration for Exercise

A senior African American Man enjoying refreshing water after a workout

Being hydrated means the body has the right amount of water needed to work within the body and to replenish the water being lost through sweating and breathing. To reach the right level of hydration, it is recommended to drink water all throughout the day and incorporate water-rich foods into the diet, but hydrating for physical activity is much different than fueling the body with the fluids it needs for normal daily operations like working and running errands. The body needs enough water without overloading to sustain all of the sweating and heavy breathing involved in physical activity, and there are ways to prepare properly.

The first bathroom visit of the day is a good indicator of overall hydration. If the urine on this first trip is dark, then the body needs more water. If the urine is light in color, then the body’s hydration level is starting the day at a good spot. Make sure that anytime you participate in physical activity you are well hydrated before you arrive without being overhydrated.

Overhydration is more common in athletes and active individuals, especially runners who participate in marathons and triathlons. To prepare for physical activity, it is common to consume more water than is necessary, but overhydrating is dangerous. Having too much water in the body can dilute important substances in the blood, and if untreated can cause unnaturally low levels of sodium in the blood, which can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and coma. Things to look for in the early stages of overhydration include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, or disorientation. Urine can also be an indicator of overhydration. If the color of your urine is clear with no yellow tint whatsoever, then you could be overhydrated.

The experts recommend set amounts of fluid per day, but they also recommend using your thirst as your guide. If you feel thirsty, drink something, and you should drink continuously throughout the day. Water should be consumed during exercise as well. Experts say to drink two to four cups of water for each hour of exercise. And, a good indicator of how much water to replenish the body with after exercise is your weight. Hop on the scale before and after physical activity and drink 16 to 20 ounces of liquid for every pound lost between the initial weigh-in and the final one. This method of rehydrating the body should replenish all that was lost during activity.

Being an active person who enjoys sports and physical activity is great. Being on the move helps keep the body in tip-top condition, and an added consideration when living an active lifestyle is how to keep the body hydrated properly. Use your thirst as your guide and be sure to drink water before, during, and after physical activity.