Keeping hydrated is the key to exercising safely. Whether you’re at the gym, out for a run, cycling, hiking or even on the slopes, it’s important to avoid dehydration to maintain not just your fitness and performance, but also a healthy body.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the basics of the importance of staying hydrated, how to stay hydrated while exercising, hydration as part of a healthy lifestyle as well as the benefits of drinking water.
- The signs of dehydration
- Am I properly hydrated?
- How much should I be drinking?
- How to rehydrate quickly
- Why do I need to maintain hydration during exercise?
Signs of dehydration
First, let’s take a look at what we’re trying to avoid.
Your body is primarily made up of water and as a result, it’s necessary to top it up throughout the day as you lose moisture. The most important thing to remember here is: water is the best drink for hydration. If you feel thirsty, the effects of dehydration have already begun, and you need to grab yourself a glass.
How do you know if you are properly hydrated?
One of the most common signs of dehydration is getting a headache after exercising, or even during. You can avoid dehydration headaches or other effects by ensuring to keep hydrated.
Another tell-tale sign of dehydration is the colour of your urine. If you notice it is darker than usual, you are most likely dehydrated.
Dehydration can also cause dry skin, dizziness, fatigue and constipation, so if you experience any of these symptoms, it is always wise to drink water.
How much water should I drink a day if I exercise?
It’s generally advisable to always keep water close to hand that you can drink throughout the day to maintain a healthy level of hydration. You should drink around 2 litres of water a day, regardless of exercise, in order to keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because that is already a sign of dehydration.
The amount of water you need is specific to you and your body, but generally, it is advised that everyone drinks at least 8 glasses of water per day. Try taking sips of water at regular intervals rather than gulping back a load when you need it, as this will keep you hydrated and refreshed throughout the day.
Carrying large amounts of water around with you may seem like a nuisance but there are many ways to keep stocked up on the move. If you’re out hiking, cycling or running at a distance, a hydration pack is a smart investment – and many bags nowadays have compartments specifically designed to hold these. Also, snack-wise it is a good idea to carry salty snacks as these help your body control its water level.
How can I rehydrate quickly when dehydrated?
Drinking a lot of water quickly helps dehydration short term but ultimately a lot of this liquid will be lost through urine. In order to properly rehydrate quickly when dehydrated, take sips at regular intervals (or every few minutes if severely hydrated), as the slower approach will allow your body to process the amount of water each time before the next drink instead of rushing to flush it out.
Avoid coffee, junk food and alcohol when dehydrated as these will encourage your body to flush out the liquids instead of processing the water.
Why do you need to stay hydrated during exercise?
When exercising, your body will sweat to keep you cool. This will cause you to lose moisture so it is very important to renew yourself by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration when exercising is even more dangerous as you will get tired much quicker and can be more prone to dizziness or fainting due to the physical demands you’re putting your body through.
Staying hydrated during exercise should start before your exercise begins. Drinking fluids a couple of hours before will prepare your body for the loss of fluids. Plus, when you’re well-hydrated you are more focused and your muscles – which are 75% water, FYI – are working at their optimal level.
While exercising, continually sip water every 10-20 minutes to replenish the moisture you are losing. If you are partaking in any prolonged strenuous activities such as a long run, hike or distance cycle, you should also introduce energy drinks and salty snacks as these will replenish electrolytes, which also work to prevent overhydration – another problem that can occur.
It cannot be overstated that water and keeping hydrated is integral to everyday life, regardless of your amount of exercise or physical activity that day.