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Hydration: Essential for Performance & Health

Hydration: Essential for Performance & Health

By Wendy Moltrup, MS, CHES

Hydration affects how your body functions, including your heart rate, core body temperature, circulation and the ability of your muscles to contract properly.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), failing to take in enough water can lead to dehydration, heat illnesses, muscle fatigue, energy loss, and decreased performance. Dehydration and health illnesses can lead to serious health problems and be life-threatening.

What should I drink?

Water, just plain H2O, is often the best choice for hydration. When exercising for less than an hour, water is usually fine.

If the environment or temperature is hot or when you are exercising for more than an hour, a sports drink that includes carbohydrates (glucose) and sodium (salt) may be a better choice. Sodium is a vital electrolyte that is lost in sweat.

How much should I drink?

How much you need to drink varies according many factors, including gender, age, health, medications, diet, sweat rate and the environment.

A simple way to monitor your hydration is by the color of your urine. When you are hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow or clear. Dark urine is often a sign that you need to drink more.

*Note, some vitamins or medications may also cause your urine to be darker.

When should I drink?

  • Drink before you get thirsty. Drink during the day, before you go to class and even if you are not exercising.
  • Drink during class. Always have water or a sports drink with you during your ride.
  • Drink after class. Replenish the water lost through sweat when you exercise.
American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations on Hydration
Before Your Workout
• Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage at least four hours in advance
• Drink 8-12 fluid ounces of water 10-15 minutes before exercise
• Consuming a beverage with sodium (salt) and/or small meal also helps to stimulate thirst and retain fluids
During Your Workout
• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when exercising for less than 1 hour
• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of a sports beverage (5-8 percent carbohydrate with electrolytes) every 15-20 minutes when exercising for more than 1 hour
• Do not drink more than one quart/hour during exercise
After Your Workout
The goal is to correct your fluid losses within two hours after exercise
• Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage for every pound (of water) lost
Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2011 American College of Sports Medicine

 

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