This may surprise you, but it’s a fact: you lose as much as one liter of fluid per hour during exercise. The amount of fluids lost will vary from one person to another and will entirely depend on the duration and intensity of exercise. Typically, you lose fluid through sweat and the amount of air you inhale and exhale. If you don’t replenish your body with fluids, you’ll risk dehydration, which can significantly affect your ability to exercise as well as your overall health. Therefore, it’s essential you take in the right amount of fluids before, during, and after exercise.
Before exercising, ensure you’re hydrated, especially if you’re doing it in a warm or humid environment. If you happen to be dehydrated before the exercise, your core body temperature will increase and your heart will have to work twice harder than normal. This greatly hinders your performance and can lead to serious medical conditions, such as heat stroke, for instance.
Provided you’ve kept yourself hydrated throughout the day and haven’t exercised for 8 to 12 hours, it’s important to be hydrated at all times so you can exercise at any time of the day. A quick test is to look into your urine color. A normal urine should be pale yellow. A darker color indicates dehydration. If your urine happens to be darker than normal or you feel you’re dehydrated, drink fluids slowly at least a few hours prior to exercising. This gives enough time for fluid absorption. Aim to consume around 400 to 600 ml of water a few hours before exercising.
At the Time of Exercise
It’s recommended to sip water at regular intervals during exercise. The amount required for consumption will depend on how much you sweat and the duration of exercise. You can calculate the amount of fluids lost in a single exercise session and how much water you need to take in during and after exercise. Do this by weighing yourself (weighing before passing urine). Then compare this with your weight prior to exercising (weighing after passing urine). For every kilogram lost, you’ll need to consume 1.5 liters of fluid.
If you intend to exercise under one hour, water is all that’s required for hydration. If you’re going beyond one hour, opting for sports drinks or squash can keep you going as sugars and other nutrients in them gives you added energy.
If you’re preparing for a race or some other physical event, make it a habit to consume fluids prior to any exercise. This will give you an idea as to how much fluid is required to take in and when to drink it.
Once you’re through exercising, your body will desire for something to drink. This will keep your body refreshed and restores fluids lost. In turn, your muscles will recover.
Remember that replacing fluids is essential during exercise. The sooner you replace the fluids lost, the quicker your body will recover. Sports drinks or water (with a pinch of salt also helps) can restore your fluid levels. Avoid alcohol or caffeine-based drinks after exercise since they contribute to water loss or more urine produced by the kidneys.