Staying hydrated is important at all times, especially when you exercise.
If you don’t drink enough fluids before, during and after exercise, especially when you sweat a lot, you risk becoming dehydrated. Dehydration plays a huge role in mental and physical health. When you are dehydrated, everything in your body, from your muscles to your cells to your cognitive functions, is affected. Additionally, dehydration can also cause fatigue and dampen your motivation.
Conversely, good hydration helps optimize exercise performance. This can help blood pump more efficiently and cool your body. It can help to better perceive the effort, therefore to feel better.
The exact amount you should drink varies depending on temperature, humidity, and your level of exertion. But one of the easiest ways to monitor your hydration is to keep an eye on the color of your urine. When you are well hydrated, your urine will be pale yellow, like the color of wheat. If you are dehydrated, it will be darker. You also urinate less often if you haven’t had enough to drink. Other signs of dehydration are extreme thirst, dizziness and confusion.
Here are the most common exercise hydration mistakes you need to be wary of
1. You don’t drink enough before, during and after exercise.
For most people, try to drink 500ml of water in the two hours before exercise, plus 200ml about 20-30 minutes before you start exercising. During your workout, try to drink an additional 200ml of water every 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, drink 300 to 700 ml of water. The more you sweat during your workout, the more fluids you will need to replace.
2. You don’t plan how you’re going to stay hydrated.
If you go for a long walk, jog, run, or swim, you may forget to keep water handy or may not feel like bringing a bottle. Most of the time what happens is that people get dehydrated and end up binging on water after their workout, and then it’s too late. Instead, plan exactly how you’ll hydrate during your workout, and find a system for carrying water or a sports drink with you. For example, some people like to use fanny packs or carry a lightweight backpack. Riders may choose to use a hand-held water bottle. If you ride a bike and have a bottle holder on your bike, use it, but remember to clean and refill your bottle between workouts.
3. You don’t replenish lost electrolytes
On average, a person loses up to half a liter of sweat every 30 minutes when exercising. According to previous research, this figure can be as high as three to four liters of sweat per hour, depending on the metabolic rate. Sweat is mostly water, but it also contains important electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Electrolytes are minerals in the body found in bodily fluids such as blood and urine. They help manage a number of bodily functions, including nutrient absorption, waste disposal, and water distribution in the body.
Sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea can all cause you to lose electrolytes, leaving you feeling dehydrated or causing muscle cramps and spasms. Sodium is the electrolyte your body loses the most when you sweat, so if you sweat a lot you need to replenish your salt intake to help you stay hydrated. People who exercise intensely for about an hour, or who exercise in the heat, should consume a sports drink to help replenish their electrolytes. But it is important to think carefully about the choice of drink, because you may make another mistake with hydration.
4. You choose the wrong sports drink.
One of the keys to replenishing lost electrolytes is choosing the right sports drink. Many sports drinks are specially designed to maintain your body’s electrolyte balance when you sweat a lot. You can also find electrolyte powder or tablets at many pharmacies, which you can mix into a bottle of water. Coconut water replenishes lost electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and manganese (but check the label to confirm electrolyte content, which varies by brand). Many people choose sugar-free, calorie-free, or low-sodium sports drinks that are commonly found in stores. But a sports drink needs to provide you with carbs and sodium, so you really need to make sure these are in the drink.
If you’re consuming a sports drink, there’s a reason for it. Avoid energy drinks high in caffeine and sugar which can lead to increased blood pressure, irritability, restlessness and increased risk of dehydration. And keep in mind that both adults and children should only opt for sports drinks over water during intense exercise that lasts longer than an hour.
5. You’re not getting enough magnesium
As an electrolyte, magnesium helps restore hydration status during recovery. But many people don’t meet the recommended magnesium intake, especially men over 70 and teenagers. In this case, consider adding more foods rich in magnesium to your diet, opt for legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, milk and yogurt. Fortified foods, such as fortified cereals, can also help increase your magnesium intake.
Magnesium supplements may also have beneficial effects on your training. If you are struggling with leg cramps or muscle pain, using magnesium powder can help the muscles relax. Research published in Scientifica in 2017 found that while magnesium may help improve leg cramps slightly, more studies are needed to confirm this effect. Bonus: Other research, published in Nutrients in 2017, suggested that magnesium supplements may help improve exercise performance, including grip strength and lower leg power. But more research is needed to confirm these potential effects.
You can find magnesium powder in many pharmacies. Mix it with water and drink it hot or cold. You can also find magnesium in many multivitamin and mineral supplements and other dietary supplements.
Remember, however, that the upper recommendation for magnesium taken in supplement form is 350 milligrams (mg) per day for adults and children ages 9 to 18. Exceeding this amount can cause diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps. Extremely high consumption can lead to irregular heartbeats and even cardiac arrest. Magnesium supplements may also interact with certain medications, including bisphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics, acid reflux and stomach ulcer medications, and zinc supplements. Talk to your doctor if you are considering taking a magnesium supplement, especially if you are taking any of these medications.
6. You drink alcohol after a workout
Maybe you like to unwind at the end of the day by opening a chilled bottle. But if your happy hour follows a workout, think again. Drinking alcohol after exercise is a mistake. Alcohol is not a rehydration drink. It does not contain the correct nutritional profile to act as a recovery drink. Indeed, alcohol contributes to dehydration. Ditch the alcohol after your workout. Instead, try opting for a glass of water, a sports drink. As noted above, coconut water or electrolyte blends are good options for a post-workout drink.