As temperatures climb, it’s important to satisfy your thirst when you are active—especially during workouts—even if you don’t feel thirsty yourself. But what fluids are best to drink when you exercise?
Sports drinks or water can be a matter of personal preference, but unless you are pushing yourself very hard in hot, humid conditions, water alone is probably fine. What matters most is quantity.
The American Council on Exercise has issued guidelines for drinking water while active:
- Before you exercise: Two to three hours before you start to workout, drink 17 to 20 ounces of water; 20 to 30 minutes before, drink another eight ounces.
- During exercise: Every 10 to 20 minutes, drink seven to 10 ounces of water.
- After exercising: Within 30 minutes after you finish your workout, drink eight ounces of water.
If you engage in strenuous exercise, sweat, wear heavy sports equipment or have a high body-fat percentage, increase the quantity of water you drink. For a high-intensity workout that lasts longer than 60 minutes, consider substituting a sports drink—one that provides potassium and other electrolytes with moderate amounts of added sugar and sodium, although calories from the sugars can provide energy when your own begins to decline. Avoid caffeinated drinks; these can cause nausea and anxiety, and even boost your risk of heat-related illness.
Can you drink too much water? Yes, although it’s very unlikely and often affects endurance athletes, like marathoners. The symptoms of hyponatremia include confusion, vomiting, swelling of the extremities and headache, all stemming from a lack of sodium.
Average athletes need to worry much more about heat-related dehydration; this can cause cramps, exhaustion and, at worst, heatstroke, which can cause delirium or seizures. To monitor your hydration, check your urine color (on workout days and otherwise). Pale yellow or straw color is normal; dark yellow is a warning to drink more.
We can create a summer-appropriate, beverage-filled workout routine for you that will allow you to gradually acclimate to warmer conditions. The result is sunnier, fitter days ahead!