Drinking water before, during and after exercise helps us to work out more efficiently and for longer, and while sports drinks have a role to play, particularly for elite level endurance athletes, they are often used inappropriately by the rest of us as recreational drinks, which adds unnecessary calories to our diet.
Finding an optimal hydration strategy can take our workouts to the next level.
Finding the right amount of fluid to drink depends upon a variety of individual factors including the length and intensity of exercise, age, gender, body mass, and climate. One simple method of estimating adequate hydration is weighing yourself before and after exercise. Any weight lost is likely to be from fluid, so try to drink enough to replenish those losses. Any weight gain could mean you are drinking more than you need.
The routine measurement of pre and post exercise body weight is useful for determining sweat rates and customizing your fluid replacement. Below are some general guidelines for fluid intake during exercise. While specific fluid recommendations aren’t possible due to individual variability, most athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point and modify their hydration needs accordingly:
Drink about 500ml, two to three hours before exercise.
Drink 200 – 300ml, 10 to 15 minutes before exercise.
Drink 300ml every 10 to 15 minutes during exercise.
If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 300ml of a sports drink (more on this below) every 15 to 30 minutes.
Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.
Drink 500 – 700ml of water for every one pound lost.
Consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein within two hours after exercise to replenish glycogen stores.
Water is an essential nutrient critical for optimal physical performance, resistance to injury and maintenance of normal body temperature. But water has some stiff competition, with the proliferation of sports drinks, energy drinks and various flavored and fortified waters. Here’s a breakdown on how some popular H2O alternatives stack up:
Sports drinks – Most sports drinks are composed of simple carbohydrates and electrolytes. Drinks containing up to 10% carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly enough to deliver glucose to active muscles, which can help to improve endurance. However, drinks that exceed 10% carbohydrates, such as fruit juices and sodas, can cause cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Avoid these during exercise.
Energy drinks – There is clear evidence caffeine is a non-harmful stimulant that provides performance-enhancing benefits, which can include improved endurance, stamina and reaction time; however, overuse of caffeine can cause the jitters, so exercisers just need to know how much to consume for individual comfort.
Vitamin water – Many of these contain alternative sweeteners, so it’s best to get vitamins and minerals naturally from foods and beverages, like vitamin C from citrus and calcium from dark leafy green vegetables.
Coconut water – A bottle of plain coconut water has double the potassium (600+ mg) of one banana and just a modest amount (~60+ mg) of sodium, which makes it a great alternative to high sugar drinks or even diet drinks but lacking the level of nutrients needed for endurance activities.
Hydrating during your workouts is an important piece of the high performance puzzle. Drinking nothing during training is a mistake of colossal proportions! Proper workout hydration can take your game to the next level.