While maintaining a regular and consistent workout routine is pivotal to meeting your fitness goals—no matter if you’re hoping to build strength or drop a few pounds—it’s not just about frequency and intensity.
Staying hydrated is arguably just as important as burning calories and staying committed to your schedule. As Certified Health Coach and Author Robyn Youkilis explains, everyone needs an adequate amount of hydration for overall vitality, but fitness enthusiasts need even more since you’re constantly draining your body of fluids.
So, Aaptiv asked experts to break down exactly how to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout.
How to Hydrate Before Your Workout
Everyone’s body has varying needs in terms of hydration. Even so, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist Jaime Windrow, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, who is board-certified in sports dietetics, mandates a few key habits for those who maintain a workout regimen.
First and foremost, it’s not enough to take a sip of water at the beginning and end of your workout. Rather, you should be maintaining consistent sips throughout your workday.
“Maintaining good hydration on a daily basis, by staying a step ahead of dehydration, is the best approach to hydration. Waiting until you are thirsty to drink fluids is too late—you are already dehydrated,” she says. “It’s important to drink throughout the day, as well as before, during, and post-workout.”
This usually means imbibing at least a few water bottles full of water while meeting deadlines, attending meetings, and ahem, scrolling through social media.
Struggling to down that quantity of good ‘ole fashioned H20? Windrow says that you can also turn to specific water-rich foods that provide similar benefits. Considering the majority of these choices are fruits and vegetables, Windrow notes that it’s a win-win for cleaning up your diet, too, since they’re packed with vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
Eighty percent of your daily water consumption should come from liquids. The remaining 20 percent can be from foods that have a 90 percent or higher water concentration. These include celery, watermelon, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and cantaloupe, among others.
How to Hydrate During Your Workout
Pausing to drink water during exercise shouldn’t impact your workout—unless you’re seriously overdoing it.
Consider following this hydration schedule: 16 ounces of water two hours before training, 8 ounces of water five to ten minutes before your workout, and then eight to ten ounces of water, as needed, every 20 minutes while you’re jumping, planking, running—you name it. If you’re concerned or feel drained during an intense session, Windrow suggests weighing yourself before and after. You should weigh the same if you drank enough H20.
How to Hydrate After a Workout
Do you feel light-headed, dizzy, or overly fatigued after working out? If so, you might need more than water to rebuild the fluids that your body needs. Your system might be hankering for electrolytes.
As Windrow explains, if you aren’t receiving the proper balance of electrolytes, you’ll never feel hydrated. You also won’t receive the benefits from your effort.
“Electrolytes help to increase the absorption of fluids into the bloodstream, which is why the best hydration plan is one that includes these minerals,” Windrow says.
These minerals include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium ions. They provide the electrical energy necessary for many functions in the human body and for optimal athletic performance. These ions move across membranes carrying fluids, nutrients, and water, she shares.
Although there are plenty of electrolyte drinks on the market, you can skip the unnecessary added sugar by doubling-up on an ingredient that you already have on your kitchen table—salt.
“Add electrolytes by adding a pinch of high-quality sea salt to your water. Salt dissolves into its component ions when combined with water. These ions are electrically conductive and help receive and send messages throughout the body, and help facilitate cell hydration,” Youkilis explains.
Windrow recommends consuming these fluids—electrolyte-rich or water—at a rate that closely matches your sweat rate during exercise. Generally speaking, she notes that this is usually 13 to 26 ounces per hour, depending on your weight.
How to Know If You’re Hydrated
The symptoms of dehydration are rather evident—you’ll likely notice them right away. Windrow says those who aren’t downing enough water will experience dizziness, confusion, lightheadedness, dry lips, mouth or skin, physical and mental fatigue, darkened urine, and an increased body temperature or heart rate. One way to test how much aqua your body requires is to conduct the sweat test. It’s easy-peasy and informative, Windrow explains:
- Weigh yourself, in ounces, before and after you workout.
- Track how much fluid you consumed in ounces during your sweat sesh; add this number to the above number. This number is what you should be drinking to replace the sweat that you lose during your fitness routine.
“If you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim to consume 75 ounces of water per day, in addition to the losses that occur during workouts,” Windrow explains. If you’re not drinking the amount determined appropriate for your body, it’s time to chug!