Fitness buffs regularly workout to keep their health and physique in peak condition. Failing to hydrate while exercising, however, can lead to symptoms of dehydration like dizziness, sluggishness and muscle cramps.
Your body loses plenty of water and nutrients like sodium and potassium whenever you exercise and sweat them out. Sometimes, especially during an intense workout, you might fail to recognise that your body is already exhibiting signs of dehydration since you might relate the sluggishness and other symptoms to the difficulty of your workout routine.
If you don’t feel any thirst, you might not even pause for a drink in between exercises. Experts from Baylor College of Medicine, however, point out that if you’re thirsty, then you’re likely already dehydrated. Fitness buffs who fail to listen to their body’s signals can end up with fever and other complications as a result of dehydration.
Why You Should Drink Water When Exercising
Water aids in lubricating your joints and muscles so that they can function more effectively and flexibly. Water also transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body to help keep vital organs working properly. This biological process provides the energy and the stamina that your body needs for exercises and daily activities.
Water also regulates your body’s temperature. When you workout, your body creates heat as your muscles warm up. The sweating mechanism is your body’s autonomic way of cooling you off to maintain a stable core temperature. If you’re dehydrated, your body may not be able to produce enough sweat to cool you down.
Fever After an Intense Workout
It’s normal for the body temperature to rise in the midst of an exercise or perhaps minutes after you’ve finished your workout. If you’re working out in a humid and warm environment, such as the outdoors, it’s also common to have a slightly elevated body temperature.
A significant rise in body temperature, however, could result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Many people use a thermometer to monitor the progression of illness easily, however, you may also want to check your temperature after a workout if you are worried about dehydration. Additional signs may include:
- Elevated body temperature of about 40 °C (104 °F)
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heart rate or pulse rate
- Muscle spasms on the legs, back, abdomen, or arms
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
- Moist skin
- Irritability or confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Aside from hydrating, you can also cool down by:
- Removing excess clothing
- Moving to a shaded and well-ventilated area
- Spraying yourself with water or mist
- Placing a wet towel or an ice pack to the forehead, groin, and armpits.
- If you are alert and oriented, drink water. Note: Do not give someone something to drink if they have an altered level of consciousness as they may choke.
- Do not massage cramping muscles if you are not properly trained
Call your doctor or emergency services to get immediate medical attention in these instances.
How Much Water Should You Drink if You’re Exercising?
Your muscles are composed of 70% water. During intense exercises, you can lose water through sweating and respiration (in a process known as evaporation). With perspiration comes important electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are also lost through sweating. Dehydration makes your soft tissues such as the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skin lose their elasticity, making them more prone to micro trauma and injuries.
Experts recommend that fitness buffs should drink water before, during, and after a workout. Ideally, drink at least 17 to 20 ounces, or two and a half glasses of water, two or three hours before you exercise. Hydrate within 20 to 30 minutes between exercises by drinking at least 7 to 10 ounces, or the equivalent of one and a half glasses of water. After your workout, drink another 16 to 24 ounces of water or more if you break a lot of sweat.
Protecting Yourself Against Dehydration While Exercising
Apart from following the ideal recommendations for drinking water during workouts, a fitness buff can avoid dehydration by doing the following:
- Stay off alcohol or caffeine hours before a workout. Beer and coffee are known diuretics that can deplete more water and electrolytes from your body through frequent urination. These drinks also wear the body down, making you struggle with movements, balance or coordination, and potentially injure yourself while working out.
- Workout indoors instead of outdoors. Switch to the gym if you find yourself having dizzy spells or feeling more tired after a few minutes of exercise outdoors. Physical exertion under hot weather raises the risk for dehydration. If you need to run outdoors, then consider an early morning or early evening workout since the weather is cooler during these hours. However, you should keep in mind that regardless of your workout environment, doing exercises always involve water loss so it’s crucial to hydrate with water even if you’ll be exercising indoors.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Light-coloured exercise clothes made from lightweight materials can keep you cool, dry, and comfortable as you sweat. Bring extra clothes since you’ll likely soak your workout outfit after doing your routines.
Should You Substitute Water if You Workout?
Some fitness buffs prefer sports drink or salt tablets than plain water to hydrate while exercising; and some research has shown that drinks like Gatorade contain electrolytes to better re-hydrate your body following intense or prolonged exercise in hot environments.
If you’re doing ordinary workouts, however, drinking water should be enough since sports drinks have a high sugar content, which might result in other health issues. Salt tablets, on the other hand, are not recommended for people with high blood pressure for the sodium content might cause your BP to shoot up.
If you still prefer to replenish the electrolytes lost during a 30-minute workout, then drink fresh coconut water or eat a banana after you’re done exercising. Always listen to your body and carefully consider the cues, especially if you start feeling worse after exercising.
This article is a guest post by Joe Fleming