It’s a bleak winter’s day but you’ve managed to get to the gym. After smashing out a solid treadmill session, you’ve cooled down and now all you want to do is grab a nice, warm latte, not a bottle of cold water! Let’s face it, your water intake is not something you think about as much during the cooler months and as such is often a neglected part of a workout. Melanie Marino explains that if you’re not hydrated then you could seriously be watering down your results.
Even when water turns to hail outside you should still be thinking about hydration levels to make sure your body trains and recovers effectively. You need to cool efficiently when exercising and avoid any unnecessary elevation in heart rate. Drinking enough fluids means you will minimize unwanted discomfort from dehydration and enhance coordination, decision-making and control.
Performance in the gym can be negatively impacted by as little as 2-3% body weight loss from sweat. During flu season fluids are really important to also support our immune defenses. With all those extra winter ‘lurgies’ lurking around the gym, you won’t want to catch something and potentially miss weeks of training.
So, here’s how you know if you’re dehydrated. Dark coloured urine is the first sign to look for – particularly in the morning. Waking with a lower body weight than yesterday even though your food intake was the usual is another indicator. The other obvious sign is thirst. However, by the time you’re thirsty, you are already dehydrated. It’s ideal to drink that ‘aqua’ before you get to that stage.
Other important signs to look out for are fatigue early in your workout or a high perceived exertion on training. Those days when your exercise feels hard to get through may simply come down to a lack of water. Delayed recovery or symptoms such as muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting are also signs that you are dehydrated. Headaches during and after exercise are often a warning sign of dehydration, as is a lack of concentration.
A big night out before a workout or a few too many morning coffees can both lead to dehydration, so you need extra fluid. If you have also recently come off a flight, been unwell or done a particularly hard training session you also require extra water. Remember it can take up to 24 hours for your body to regain fluid balance after dehydration. You need to drink up or you’re going really dampen your training and recovery.
Fluid needs are very individual and one of the best ways to find out how much you sweat is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. As a general guide you should try and drink close to half a litre of water or at least a few glasses two to three hours before you exercise. During training you should have small amounts of water regularly to try to limit water loss to less than two percent of your body weight. After your work out try to replace the water you’ve lost over the next four to six hours.
As mentioned above, you should use your urine colour as a hydration guide; it should be pale yellow. Many people are ‘salty sweaters’, if your sweat stings you eyes, burns an open cut, tastes salty or if you have white on your face, skin, clothes or hat after you’ve worked out you are a salty sweater. You need not only water but also recovery snacks such as cereal, bread and vegemite (containing salt) that will help your body rehydrate more effectively.
If you are exercising for an hour or less then water should be the only fluid you need. If you are exercising for longer then you might want to try a low sugar sports drink. I find the powder ones to be the best. Despite (unfounded) claims to the contrary, coconut water is really no more hydrating than water so save yourself the money.
Keep in mind that too much water can make you feel uncomfortable and in some rare instances be extremely dangerous. If you are exercising at a low intensity in cool weather you can drink less. When it’s hot and humid you will need more fluids so you don’t dilute your performance.
If you tend to hate the water ‘cycle’ then you can also obtain fluid through foods that have a high water content such as oranges, melons, zucchinis and carrots. Enjoy soup or a smoothie and brew a herbal tea as an alternative to your usual caffeine drink. Try to carry a water bottle with you during the day and drink water during meals too.
Remember sometimes simply keeping your glass half full can be your liquid asset when it comes to training and recovery.