Our bodies are made up 70% water. It is a key that keeps our bodies running. Fluids help to regulate our body's temperature, lubricate joints, and remove waste. Without water, our bodies would cease to function.
When we do any sort of physical activity, we naturally sweat as a means for the body shed heat. The more intense the workout, the higher the level of fluid loss. Sweat is the body's natural way of shedding harmful toxins. But even a loss of as little as 2% of the body's fluids through sweat can cause your blood to thicken and your heart to work harder to circulate.
Not properly hydrating can also affect your performance. Dehydration can cause a reduction in your ability to concentrate and increase your chances of cramping and injury.
What you sweat out isn't just water either. Contained within the sweat are normally a lot of salts, referred to as "electrolytes". These salts are what allow your cells to carry electrical impulses that move muscles and send signals to the brain.
Electrolytes naturally occur in the body through the kidneys. If you lose too much fluid too quickly, your kidneys have a harder time trying to catch up. This is why many athletes will drink special sports drinks that provide a boost to the sodium and potassium in their bodies. However, it's important to remember that the body works on a balance. Too many electrolytes in the body can be just as bad as too little.
Signs of dehydration
You will often feel dehydration long before others notice it. Here are some signs that you need to stop and take a drink break:
- Dry mouth and/or eyes
- muscle cramps
- decreased sweating despite increase in activity
- darker color urine
- trouble urinating
- nausea or vomiting
- heart palpitations
- confusion and blackouts
How much should I drink?
Every person and situation is different. Ideally, one should try to replace the same amount of fluids they lost during exercise. While it is not always possible to figure this out, the general rule of thumb used is a before-during-after regiment.
Make sure to drink at least 15-20 fl oz around 2-3 hours before you exercise. About 15 minutes before you exercise, try to drink another glass of water.
As you exercise, make sure to drink a glass of fluid every 10-15 minutes of exercise. If you're planning to exercise more than an hour, consider introducing a drink with electrolyte replaces every other drink break.
Drink at least another 20-24 fl oz of water. The best is if you can determine how much weight you lost during your routine. You should drink at least 20 fl oz for every pound you lose.
Don't forget to also eat afterwards to replenish the other nutrients of the body.