Water is an essential part of life. Really, you can’t live without it. Almost everyone has heard the recommendation, “Drink eight glasses a day.”
For those of us who have tried it, the only thing we may have noticed was that we used the restroom more. However, dehydration has severe effects and can be a very dangerous condition. It is important to pay attention to hydration before, during and after any exercise, due to the amount of water that is lost through sweat and respiration.
So how much should you drink to avoid dehydrating? The main goal is to keep your fluid and electrolyte levels normal. These levels are especially important on extremely hot or humid days, but be sure to stay attentive during the winter months. We can still lose fluids when it’s cold.
Do not rely solely on thirst as an indicator of when you should hydrate, because according to the American College of Sports Medicine, “Thirst alone is not the best indicator of dehydration or the body’s fluid needs.”
Two hours before exercise, you should drink one to two glasses (eight to 16 ounces) of water. During exercise, (it’s uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it) drink one-half to one cup every 15 to 20 minutes. It may seem like a nuisance to carry water with you while you’re exercising. However, careful planning will allow a stop or two at one of the many water fountains on campus or around Manhattan, so you don’t have to worry about extra baggage.
Post-exercise, the ACSM recommends using weight to determine the amount of fluid lost to allow for adequate replenishment. The general rule is that two cups of fluid replace every one pound of body weight lost during exercise.
The topic of hydration brings up another million-dollar question — are sports drinks better at increasing hydration than water? For most exercisers, water can hydrate just as well as a sports drink. It is cheaper and more readily available and doesn’t provide unnecessary calories.
For people who are exercising longer than one hour or for those who will exercise for longer than 30 minutes in intense heat, sports drinks can be beneficial. They provide carbohydrates, which can give a boost of energy during a long workout and can replenish electrolytes (sodium and potassium) that are lost through excessive sweat.
The main advantage sports drinks have over water is that they simply taste better. People are more apt to drink something with more flavor. In this way, sports drinks can increase fluid intake and thus, increase hydration.
To maintain health everyday and during exercise — don’t forget to drink up.