Working out at the gym or training for an event or sport requires more than just physical activity – you also need to plan your hydration so you get the most out of your workout and avoid health problems. When you work out with a coach they will create a hydration plan for you, but you can also follow some simple tips to minimize dehydration, avoid heat illness, and prevent over-hydration.
Your Hydration Goal
The aim of proper hydration is to prevent dehydration without drinking excess amounts of fluids. The amount of fluid you need depends on many factors but you can check your hydration levels by:
- Monitoring your urine color. If your urine is straw-colored or light yellow then you are properly hydrated. Darker urine can indicate dehydration.
- Monitoring your sweat loss. The more you sweat, generally, the more you will need to drink to prevent dehydration. However, you don’t have to be sweating to become dehydrated. The weather does not need to be hot. You can become dehydrated when you swim, even if you do not notice you are sweating.
- Monitoring your activity levels. The harder you work, the more fluid you will need. The longer you work out, the more water you should drink.
Early Signs of Dehydration
Understand the warning signs of dehydration when you are exercising:
- Flushed skin
- Faster breathing
- Faster pulse
- Decreased exercise capacity
How to Replace Fluids
Drinking is the only way you can combat dehydration and stay properly hydrated while you exercise. Drink water before you exercise (although stop drinking right before you start to exercise to avoid bloating and uncomfortable fullness), while you are exercising, and after you exercise. If you are exercising at high intensity then drink a sports drink to replace the lost sodium and potassium when you sweat.
Don’t drink excess amounts of water. Drinking too much can result in low sodium levels which creates health problems. You can suffer from a condition where your sodium levels are so low they threaten the natural functioning of your body. If you are concerned whether you are drinking too little or too much, ask a professional for advice. The goal is to stay hydrated for good health but not to jeopardize your health by over-consumption.