It’s a bleak day at the gym. The sort that makes you want to pick up a hot coffee not think about your fluid intake. This is often a neglected part of a workout. If you’re dehydrated then you could seriously be watering down your results.
Even when it’s mild we still need to cool efficiently when exercising. Performance can be impacted by as little as two to three percent body weight loss from sweat. Dehydration makes us feel uncomfortable and affects coordination, decision-making and control.
Dark urine is the first sign of dehydration. Waking with a lower body weight than yesterday after your usual food intake and thirst are other indicators. By the time your body is telling you it needs water you’re already dehydrated. It’s better to drink that aqua before you get to this stage so you don’t dampen your training results.
Fatigue early in your work out or a high perceived exertion on training may also show you’re parched. Days when exercise feels so hard to get through may simply come down to a lack of water. Delayed recovery or symptoms such as headaches, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting can be signs you’re severely dehydrated.
A big night out before a workout or a few too many morning coffees will mean you need extra fluid. If you’ve also recently come off a flight, been unwell or done particularly hard training you’ll need extra water too. It can take up to 24 hours for your body to regain fluid balance after dehydration.
Drink close to half a litre of water or at least a few glasses two to three hours prior to exercise. During training, you should have small amounts of water regularly to try and limit water loss to less than two percent of your body weight. Try to replace the water you’ve lost during exercise over the following four to six hours.
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. Use your urine as a guide to your hydration – it should be pale yellow. Recovery snacks that are high in salt such as cereal, bread and Vegemite may help your body rehydrate more effectively.
If you’re exercising for an hour or less then water should be the only fluid you need. If you’re exercising for longer, then you might want to try a low sugar sports drink. I find the powder ones are the best tolerated. Coconut water is really no more hydrating than water and you can save your extra money for a new water bottle.
Keep in mind that too much water can make you feel uncomfortable and in some rare instances be extremely dangerous. If you’re exercising at a low intensity in cool weather you can drink less. When it’s hot and humid you’ll need more fluids so you don’t dilute your performance.
If you struggle to drink water then eat foods that have a high-water content such as oranges, melons, zucchinis and carrots. Enjoy soups, smoothies and herbal teas; carry a water bottle with you during the day and drink water during meals.
Drinking water is essential if you want to train at your optimum. Sometimes, simply keeping your glass half full can be your liquid asset when it comes to training and recovery.