Staying hydrated is imperative to overall health. A person needs to drink a substantial amount of water a day to prevent dehydration.
Part of the importance of hydration has to do with the makeup of the human body. Our bodies consist of approximately 55-60% water, which indicates how essential it is to regular bodily functions.
One should not overlook the importance of hydration because it affects every aspect of the body and a person’s health.
This significance is even more crucial if you exercise regularly.
Regular exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as is water consumption. If you’re someone who takes part in strenuous, physical activity regularly but doesn’t drink water throughout, you’re at risk of dehydration.
This article explains the importance of staying hydrated when working out. We aim to give you advice and tips on how to stay safe when burning calories.
The Dangers of Dehydration
Exercise makes the body work harder by increasing cardiovascular activity and pushing muscles to the limit. During this activity, the body loses water at an accelerated speed, and breathing becomes faster and deeper. Also, sweat production increases, meaning the body excretes more fluids at a faster rate than normal.
With water leaving the body, another side effect is the loss of electrolytes and critical nutrients.
All this water loss can quickly lead to dehydration, which can have both short-term and long-term effects.
Most often, you will probably become dehydrated after a run, for example. When your fluid levels drop below the recommended amount, you may experience short-term issues such as:
- Low energy levels
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
- Chapped lips
- Dry mouth
- Excess urination
These symptoms are the body’s warning signs that it has become dehydrated. Besides the discomfort of these symptoms, inadequate hydration can lead to reduced performance and fewer caloric burns.
If you experience these symptoms, the best method is to drink water right away. You should also make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the workout to prevent dehydration from occurring.
Dehydration for an extended period can lead to various ailments. Some conditions that result from insufficient water intake include:
- Chronic back pain
- High blood pressure
- Digestive disorders
- Kidney problems
- Heart problems
Dehydration can lead to or exacerbate these conditions. Some of these conditions and treatments for them also lead to dehydration, creating a vicious circle. For example, diabetes medication acts as a diuretic, which means the body flushes water out of its system.
Signs of Dehydration
One of the most significant indicators of dehydration is thirst. However, there are many more signs.
It’s important to note that some people may not experience the same symptoms. For example, not everyone will feel thirsty when they are dehydrated. The reason is that as we get older, the thirst sense becomes less accurate. A person may enter dangerous levels of dehydration without even realizing it.
Other common signs of dehydration to look out for include:
Color and Consistency of Urine
Urine that is deep yellow or golden is one of the obvious signs of dehydration. It looks completely different from that of a well-hydrated person, whose urine will be clear and almost colorless.
Note that infrequent urination can be a sign of dehydration, too.
Physical Warning Signs
Your body also will try to warn you of its dehydrated state. You may suffer from:
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
Dehydration also can affect one’s cognitive abilities. Symptoms may include:
Some people will feel the cognitive effects of dehydration and try to offset it by taking in caffeine. Others might think that drinking a caffeinated beverage before exercise can help boost energy levels. However, this is not advisable. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing the body to lose water.
Because exercise alone can dehydrate a person, ingesting caffeine-packed energy drinks can speed up water loss.
Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including:
- Infants and younger children
- Older adults
- Sick/ill people
- People with chronic diseases (e.g. Type II Diabetes)
- Active people/athletes (especially if you exercise in hot and humid conditions)
How Much Water Is Enough?
With the various risks that dehydration poses, it is necessary to stay hydrated at all times. People who exercise need to be aware of this, more so than usual.
The amount of water that constitutes adequate fluid intake depends on a variety of factors. However, a general rule for staying hydrated is to calculate water intake by taking your body weight in pounds and dividing the number in half:
- Average Daily Water Intake: Body weight/2 = X amount of water to drink in fluid ounces
If you exercise, you want to add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes of activity.
- Water Intake with Exercise: (Body weight/2) + (12 fl. oz./30 min. exercise) = Y fl. oz of water to drink with exercise
As noted, people who exercise regularly lose water and fluid more quickly. If you’re an athlete or an avid exerciser, note that you will need more liquids if you want to maintain optimum hydration levels.
You will also need to be aware that fluid loss depends on several other factors, too.
Workout intensity plus duration both play a role.
On average, most individuals should aim for 17-20 ounces of fluid 3 hours before working out.
Your water consumption should also progress throughout the exercise:
- Warm-Up – 8 fl. oz.
- Every 10-20 mins. – 7-10 fl. oz.
- Within 30 mins. after exercise – 8 fl. oz.
Note that hot, humid environments can lead to increased fluid loss, so it’s crucial to allow your body more water if you are exercising in extreme conditions.
In simple terms, the heavier clothes you wear while exercising, the more it will lead to increased fluid loss. If you can, wear light exercise gear to avoid overworking your body.
Hydrating with Electrolytes
Besides water, your body also loses electrolytes through sweat.
Electrolytes facilitate the transfer of electrical charges throughout the body. They are responsible for stimulating nerves and muscles and maintain essential cellular functions.
If you can retain the right electrolyte balance during exercise, your body will operate more efficiently, ensuring improved energy and performance.
To replace and replenish electrolytes, you can try these other healthy drinks on top of the water, too:
- Coconut water
- Watermelon water
- Electrolyte-infused water
The Bottom Line
Hydration requires giving your body the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise.
Water is imperative for human survival and overall health. It helps with lubricating our joints and transporting nutrients. Therefore, if you work out, it’s essential for performance, energy, and recovery.
If you’re not hydrated, your body will be unable to perform at its highest level. Therefore, joggers and exercise enthusiasts must look after their bodies by staying hydrated!