Any good fitness program will only succeed with a good hydration plan. Rule of thumb: if you’re going to sweat, you need to hydrate. Hydration helps with joint lubrication, body temperature regulation, and transporting important nutrients throughout your body. And more importantly, a hydration plan will help replace the fluid lost through sweating, staving off every athlete’s nemesis: dehydration.
The goal of a pre-workout hydration plan is to fill up the reserves, making sure you have what you need to begin your workout. A pre-workout hydration plan begins well before your workout and should be part of your daily nutrition regimen. Every day, outside of your workout activity, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, your goal should be to consume at least 16 cups of clear fluids if you are a male and 12 cups if you are a female. Make sure 2-3 cups are consumed several hours prior to exercise.
During Workout Hydration
The goal during your workout is to replace the hydration you lose through your body’s perspiration process. Hydration loss is very personal, so the best way to determine if you are keeping up is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. You want to minimize the amount of water weight lost. Also monitor your urine color. If you are fully-hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow. Dark yellow to amber is a tell-tale sign of dehydration.
After Workout Hydration
In addition to fluid loss, a vigorous workout may also result in electrolyte (e.g. sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) depletion. Electrolytes are key to efficient regulation of nerve and muscle function. Replacing electrolytes can be accomplished through diet, supplements, and in extreme cases through taking a salt tablet. For the recreational athlete, a well-balanced diet will effectively replace lost electrolytes. In the case of extreme exertion or if you are a heavy sweater, you may benefit from a post-workout sports drink with added electrolytes.
Water vs. Sports Drink
When it comes to hydration, the latest research makes the case for pure, crystal clear water. Our bodies are 30% water and it makes sense to replace what is lost. Sports drinks are often laden with sugar under the guise of providing energy by way of extra carbohydrates. In reality, most are just delivering extra calories. When in doubt, stay with good, old H2O.