You hear it time and time again: stay hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water per day. But is this advice the right recommendation for every person? The truth is that your water needs vary. So when you ask the experts how much water should you drink, the answer will depend on your physical activities, gender, and weight.
Water Recommendations for Men and Women
The National Academy of Medicine has different recommendations for men and women:
- Women: About 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of water per day
- Men: About 125 ounces (3.7 liters) of water per day
While much of this hydration is ingested by drinking a glass of water, as much as 20% of your water consumption can also come from the foods you eat.
Exercise Increases Your Water Requirements
Your water needs increase when you are participating in physical exercise. For example, when you are working out, fluids are lost through respiration and sweat. These natural processes help to manage body temperature and protect the organs within.
Your exact fluid loss can range between 17 – 50 ounces of water per hour. A variety of factors influence the amount of water you are losing while working out, such as:
- Body size
- Exercise intensity
- Ambient temperature
- How much you sweat
- Humidity and weather
Why Hydration is Important During Your Workouts
Notice how you feel when you aren’t getting enough water during your exercise session. Often, a lack of water causes an athlete to feel sluggish. When there isn’t enough water in the body, it has an undeniable impact on performance.
Dehydration affects blood plasma, causing it to become thicker and denser. Sometimes, the blood pressure and heart rate increase as well. Eventually, dehydration leads to more severe symptoms that can play a role in your performance. For example, you might notice muscle cramps, weakness, confusion, dizziness, or confusion.
Hydration is vital for your workout and the recovery period after you are done exercising. This is because water acts as a lubricant for the whole body. When the lubrication slows, it affects muscle recovery and tissue healing – causing a domino effect that can harm your physical performance in future workouts.
Tips for Staying Hydrated While Working Out
How much water should you drink while exercising? Step beyond this question and start focusing on the small strategies that keep you hydrated throughout your training session. Here are a few tips to help:
- Start Early: While it’s good to take a water bottle to your workout, your hydration should start much earlier. Start drinking water two hours before you exercise. If you like to work out first thing in the morning, then try drinking a tall glass of water immediately when you get out of bed.
- Stay Consistent: During your exercise activity, aim to drink every 15 – 20 minutes. Sipping on 4 – 6 ounces of water will keep you hydrated without slowing down your performance. For example, if you are planning to exercise for an hour, then set a goal to drink a 16-ounce water bottle before you finish.
- Hydrate After: Don’t stop drinking the water after you finish exercising. Keep a water bottle nearby so you can continue to hydrate as your body is cooling down.
- Skip the Caffeine: It might seem appealing to sip on a cup of coffee before your workout. But the caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on the body. Plus, the liquid from the coffee takes up space in your stomach, which decreases the amount of water you can drink. Instead, try starting the day with water, then add coffee when you need a pick-me-up after the workout.
- Set a Reminder: Do you forget to drink water throughout the day? Consider setting an alarm, so you remember to take a drink of water. This strategy keeps you hydrated at all times. As a result, you don’t have to “catch up” when it’s time for your workout.
Be Careful to Avoid Overhydration
While it’s good to stay hydrated, don’t go overboard and drink too much water. It’s possible to over-hydrate (known as hyponatremia). Too much water dilutes the blood and causes sodium levels to drop to dangerous levels.
Symptoms of over-hydration include headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion, coma, and even death in severe cases.
As long as your water intake is balanced, then it’s unlikely that you will have this problem. However, it’s rare, and you would need to drink gallons of water.
What to Drink for the Best Hydration?
Water is always a great choice when you are exercising. But there are other options to give your drink a boost. For example, you might choose an electrolyte drink or add a workout powder to your water to replace the minerals you lose in your sweat (such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium).
Sports drinks are great because they provide these electrolytes and give you a little boost of carbohydrates to support the activity. However, if you prefer a natural option, sip on coconut water instead. Any time you choose something other than water, always read the ingredient label.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
The best way to determine the optimal amount of water to drink is by paying attention to your body signals. Watch for early signs of dehydration and increase your water if you feel hot, dizzy, or unwell. Drinking to thirst is a good start, but intense workouts often require more water than what you think you need.
Also, check the color of your urine. If your pee color is orange or dark yellow, then it’s an indication of dehydration. Increase your water intake until you achieve a pale-yellow tint.
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