Water plays a vital role in all aspects of the metabolic process and without it you would survive for only a few days. The body is made up of more than 60% water and this level must be maintained for optimal health. We lose water continually via urination, respiration and by sweating. To avoid dehydration, water reserves must be constantly topped up by drinking a minimum of 8 cups of water a day.
When you exercise you need to drink even more because of the water lost by sweating. The actual amount lost will depend on the type of exercise you do, your bodyweight and the air temperature but you can lose 2 pints or more for each hour of exercise and this must be replaced.
How do you know if your are dehydrated?
There are a number of indications for dehydration and you should remain vigilant for these.
Dark colored urine with a strong odor is one of the most obvious signs. Other warning signs are dry throat and mouth, dry cough, dizziness, extreme tiredness and loss of appetite. Symptoms of severe dehydration are more dramatic and include pain when urinating, muscle cramps and spasms, headaches, nausea and even delirium.
When is the best time to drink?
Drinking sufficient water at regular intervals throughout the day will ensure that the body remains hydrated and functioning properly. At exercise time, it is advisable to drink 2 cups of water two hours before your session. Immediately before exercise drink a cup of water, and sip between 2 to 3 cups during each hour of your session. After an exercise session you also need to drink to replace the fluid lost through sweat. To accurately assess your needs, weigh yourself before exercise and again on completion. You will need to drink one pint of water for each pound of weight that you have lost.
Are sports drinks better for me when I am exercising?
Most sports drinks contain a mixture of carbohydrates and electrolytes (minerals) dissolved in water and they are often fruit flavored and pleasant to drink. When you exercise for longer periods (in excess of an hour) then sports drinks are beneficial because the carbohydrate provides the body with readily available energy to boost performance.
Otherwise, for shorter periods of exercise there is no real benefit over plain water, despite the promotional claims of the manufacturers of these drinks.