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Why Hydration is Important for Health & Fitness

Published: 10/14/15

Drinking the right amount of water throughout the day is critical to maintaining and improving your health. It is especially important for athletes and active individuals to consume the required amount of water, learn how proper hydration can benefit your health and fitness!

The Biology of Hydration

Water helps to lower your body temperature. Exercise often speeds up your heart rate and raises your core temperature, and water efficiently and quickly counteracts these processes. Additionally, water helps to lubricate your joints so that you can safely exercise without as much risk for injury. Without proper hydration, exercising may cause you to suffer muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and other more serious symptoms. 

How Much Water Should I Drink During Workouts?

The amount of water an individual should consume during exercise is based on a number of factors, including the temperature, humidity, the type of exercise, the duration of exercise, and the individual’s sweat rate. Practical guidelines include drinking approximately 20 ounces of water within two to three hours of exercising, 8 ounces of water about 30 minutes before the workout, 7-10 ounces for every 10-20 minutes of exercise, and 8 ounces within 30 minutes of completing the exercise routine.

One effective (but slightly icky) way to ensure that you are drinking the right amount of water is to look at the color of your urine. If it is colorless or light yellow, it is likely that you are staying well hydrated. In contrast, amber-colored or dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. Individuals who think that they are somehow drinking too much water may discuss the issue with their doctor.

Problems Associated with Lack of Water

Individuals who do not consume enough water throughout the day – and particularly around the time that they exercise, are susceptible to a number of serious medical conditions. Dehydration may manifest itself in symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, muscle cramps, no sweat and/or a fast heartbeat. Individuals who are seriously suffering from dehydration may show symptoms of confusion or poor mental clarity, as well as fainting.

Individuals may suffer from other forms of heat illness when the body is not able to properly cool itself. This may include heat cramps that manifest as painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, back or stomach. Heat exhaustion is another possibility. This condition includes symptoms such as feeling weak or nauseous, or exhibiting low blood pressure, a fast heartbeat, and headaches. Heatstroke is the most serious condition. Those suffering from this condition may have flushed skin, a fast heartbeat, possible delirium, and fast breathing. Serious heat-related illnesses warrant emergency medical attention as some conditions have resulted in hospitalization and even death.

What if I Don’t Like Water?

Water is the best way to stay hydrated and healthy. Therefore, there is no real alternative to this natural source. However, some individuals prefer to add a sports drink to their routine, especially if they are working out at a high intensity or for an hour or more. Unlike water, sports drinks contain calories, nutrients, and potassium, depending on the actual drink. These add-ons can help boost energy and provide electrolytes that can support longer duration performance in the gym.

It is important to remember, however, that not all sports drinks are made alike. Some have added sugar and loads of sodium. This information may not be as immediately apparent because the nutrition facts are based on one serving. However, some sports drinks have two to four servings in one bottle. Therefore, for an accurate measure, you need to multiply the nutrition information by the number of servings to really know how much sugar, sodium, or other add-ons you are consuming within the one bottle. Additionally, some sports drinks have caffeine to deliver an extra boost of energy, so be sure that you are aware of this and any adverse effects caffeine may cause to