Water plays a highly important role within the body, whether you are exercising or not. However, the need of water within your body is elevated as soon as any additional activity and demand is placed on your body, such as exercise.
Water has multiple roles within the body, more so than just quenching your thirst. The body maintains optimum moisture levels within the body in almost all areas, including blood, bones and the brain, whilst also protecting and lubricating bones and the spinal cord.
Whilst exercising, the body loses fluids through sweat, the body’s way of controlling its body temperature. Within one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quarter of its water supplies. If much more if lost without water replenishment, then you could be at risk of dehydration, with symptoms including:
- Decreased performance both mentally and physically
- Muscle cramps
- Harder and faster heartbeat
- Dizziness and lightheaded feeling
Heat illness is another sign of the body not coping and cool itself effectively during exercise in hotter and more humid weather. The most severe heat-related illness is heatstroke where body temperature rises higher than 40 degrees, a fast heartbeat, flushed skin and sometimes loss of consciousness. This is a severe form of dehydration but without sufficient water intake, and if the weather conditions are hot and humid enough, unfortunately can occur.
In order to avoid dehydration and maintain optimum levels of moisture within the body, it has been stated to simply drink when you are thirsty. However, it can be argued that this is not an effective way of staying hydrated, and you may wait too long before realising you are becoming dehydrated, as this is when thirst typically kicks in. It is recommended that during a normal, non-exercising day that you drink 8-10 glasses of water per day, however this changes due to individual differences such as your age, the amount of physical activity participated in and your diet. If following very low calorie diets, then it is recommended that you take in a higher fluid level.
As a recent recommendation from Camelbak, a general guideline is to drink:
- 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise
- Another 8 ounces during your warm up or 20-30 minutes before exercise
- 7-20 ounces every 10-20 minutes during exercise.
Camelbak, Lifehacker – How Much Water You Should Drink Before, During and After Exercise
Water is in most cases the standard way to rehydrate following exercise as water is a way of rehydrating the body without adding calories or extra sugars. However the consumption of sports drinks adds electrolytes and carbohydrates to replenish the body’s fluid levels quicker, however this is only normally required when training at a very high level eg endurance sports where sweat losses are higher.
Colder water has been found to keep the body temperature lower for longer whilst preventing heat-related stress, so keeping your water cool, or potentially freezing your water bottle the night before is a great way to hydrate during training.
Written by: Gemma Steel & Caleb Hughes RG:Active Coaches