Exercise and Hydration: Fill ‘er Up


Most weight trainers and exercise enthusiasts underestimate the importance of hydration.  You can’t live a week without staying hydrated.  Water helps to regulate temperature, protects/buffers vital internal organs and is useful to our digestive system.   It is in well over half of our bodily tissue.  Muscles are composed of 75% of it.  The Institute of Medicine says that Americans get approximately 80% of their daily hydration requirements from water intake and other beverages and approximately 20% from food sources.

Exercise and Hydration

You have probably heard about how wrestlers go on a big fast for wrestling matches so they can drop weight.  This sometimes includes total abstinence from drinking water. Contrast that to when you’ve seen triathletes, marathon runners and cyclists on TV greedily picking up and slamming down water and energy gels at various stations along the course to stay hydrated.  Whatever you do to achieve your fitness goals, drinking and storing water is important not only to sustain life but it is also critical if your goal is weight loss and exercise.  Water is an essential component of the human body and is critical to successful weight loss and exercising. Yet many people don’t understand the importance of staying well-hydrated and what it takes to stay that way.  Again, how critical is body hydration during exercise?  An insufficient amount can cause soreness, muscle cramps and tiredness.  Here’s the thing:  you should be well hydrated before you begin any exercise session.  If not, then your hypo-hydrated (dehydrated) state could very well affect your exercise performance if what you’re doing is vigorous exercise and it lasts beyond 45 minutes. Water is the optimal fluid for maintaining hydration up to that point.  After about an hour of heavy exertion, you should probably open up a sports drink containing some fast acting carbohydrates and electrolytes.  Try consuming about 40 to 50 grams (or more) of carbohydrates per each hour of exercise.

How Much Hydration?

Water intake is necessary to the optimal functioning of all internal organs.  To avoid dehydration, Fluids (water), must be taken to replace the amount lost each day during normal activities.  In 2004 the Food and Nutrition Board released new dietary reference intakes for water:  Water intake needs vary  from person to person. It is recommended that women drink 2.7 liters (91 oz) daily and men drink 3.7 liters (125 oz) through various drinks or in food. People engaged in any kind of sports activity need even more, especially if they’re active in very warm weather. It is especially critical to stay hydrated during the full day prior to any vigorous exercise. You can get enough water through various forms of fluids and foods including juice, milk, smoothies, soup, vegetables and fruit.  If you are the type that sweats a lot then common sense dictates that you will need more fluids.  Is coffee okay for hydration?  There is recent scientific evidence that suggests coffee taken in moderation does not badly affect workout performance or status of hydration.  Alcohol is a different story.  Stay away from the stuff if you wish optimal performance and recovery.

 Is Hydration Important for all Forms of Exercise?

In one study, hypo-hydration (inadequate water intake) doesn’t have much effect on maximal effort single rep type of strength nor for that matter does it seem to affect vertical jump height, jump squats or anything having to do with pure muscular power.  However, if you decided to do multiple sets of squats then you will start seeing decreasing returns from your efforts.  In other words, the more endurance required for your sport or activity, the more water you will need.  In terms of weight training, the longer your workouts last and how much you sweat will determine your fluid intake.  If for awhile you have been working out fairly hard and you’ve been feeling under the weather and having headaches, drink a few more glasses of water a day.  It may be just the thing you need.

Some Hydration Tips

1)  Drink fluids throughout the day before exercise.  Drink an amount of water or more an hour before a workout.  Have a little more about fifteen minutes before your session.

2)Strength training sessions should never last more than an hour.  If yours lasts more than 45 minutes, consider having a sports drink.

3)Getting enough water (fluids) helps to flush out tissues and kidneys.  One way to tell if you are drinking enough water is if your urine is clear.  If it is yellow, you may be dehydrated.  (Be sure first that this is not due to taking a vitamin B supplement which can also make your urine yellow).

Day to Day Hydration Maintenance is the Key
In the quest to achieve your fitness goals, always use your best judgement.  Remember that bodily tissues require time to absorb the fluids you ingest.  If you have not been drinking an adequate amount of water for the last few days, it would not be such a good idea to suddenly drink a gallon all at once just before some heavy physical exertion.  The idea to keep in mind is one of day to day hydration maintenance.

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