Whether you’re a serious athlete or just exercise for good overall health and well-being, it’s important to stay hydrated. Good hydration means getting the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy throughout the day and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may feel tired, have muscle cramps, dizziness, or other symptoms.
There are no exact rules for how much water to drink while exercising, because everyone is different. You need to consider factors including your sweat rate, the heat and humidity in your environment, and how long & hard you are exercising. The guidelines also encourage us to choose water over juices, soft drinks, cordials or anything similar.
There are Nutrient Reference Values advising that adult men should drink 2.6 litres of water per day (about 10 cups) and adult women should drink 2.1 litres per day (about eight cups). But these figures are based on the average weight of men and women, so if you’re underweight or overweight you may need to consider adjusting your fluid intake. A good rule of thumb is 35 millilitres of fluid per kilogram of bodyweight. Also pregnant or breastfeeding women (who require more fluid), people who live or work in extremely hot climates, and people with high protein diets (the kidneys may need more fluid to help process the increased amount of protein) are encouraged to drink more water. It’s also worth noting that other fluids can be counted towards your daily fluid intake. So juice, tea, coffee, and alcohol can all count.
General guidelines are to drink:
- 500-600ml of water 2 to 3 hours before exercising
- Another 250ml glass during your warm-up (or 20 to 30 minutes before exercising)
- 200-300ml every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
- And 250ml of water within 30 minutes after exercising. Yep, that’s a lot of water!
How can you tell you’re not getting enough? Your body will give you some pretty clear signs that you’re not getting dehydrated. So keep an eye out for symptoms such as a dry mouth, headache and feeling dizzy.
Also pay attention to your toilet habits, the colour of your urine and how frequently you go to the toilet. Your kidneys do a great job in fluid regulation, so frequency of urination and colour of urination are your two best guides. You want to be having to produce some urine every three to four hours, and it should be relatively pale.