During an intense workout we sweat – a lot – and taking a few regular sips of water during a workout might not be enough to keep your body hydrated. The key is to prepare your body with plenty of fluids before, during, and after to make sure you get the most out of your workouts.
But what exactly happens to our bodies during exercise? The first thing we typically notice is an increase in body temperature. This is because your muscles need energy for your workout, so your body burns fats and carbohydrates in a series of chemical reactions that produce heat. The fact that your body warms up as much as it does during this process is one of the many reasons why it's a great idea to exercise outside in the wintertime. When your body gets too warm, it sweats in an attempt to cool down again.
As we sweat, we lose water from our bodies, which may result in dehydration. Our bodies need water to function, and dehydration can lead to everything from cramps and confusion to loss of consciousness! That’s why we all need to take it seriously. When we exercise, we usually instinctively reach for our water bottles to hydrate and help cool our core temperature, and while drinking water at this stage is great, you should’ve also prepped your body beforehand.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before, during, and after your next gruelling exercise session.
1. Prep your body before exercise
Drinking water before hitting the gym is a great way to lubricate the joints and help transport nutrients to give you energy, which your body uses during workouts to fuel your movements. So, before starting your next workout, be sure to drink at least half a litre of water two to three hours before.
2. Stay hydrated during your workout
It’s key that you always have a source of hydration at hand when exercising. This means filling up a handy water bottle so you can reach for it when you need it. You’ll be much more likely to drink water if it’s easy to access. There are other alternatives to staying hydrated too. Depending on your exercise of choice, you may want to look into accessories like hydration packs that make hydrating on the go more convenient.
3. Post workout tip
By this time, you’re sweating and wanting to down your entire water bottle. Drink as much as you need to, but keep in mind that overhydration – drinking too much water – without replacing essential electrolytes can dilute the levels of salt and electrolytes in the body, leading to a variety of health concerns. Protein shakes are a great way to get some hydration in, provide some electrolytes and refuel after a workout.
4. Keep hydrating throughout the day
After you’ve exercised, and even if you haven’t, make sure you drink enough water throughout the day, using thirst to guide you. Look into apps that can help, if it’s something you find difficult to commit to. Just keep in mind that our bodies need about 2 litres of water a day to remain healthy, but this can vary based on activity, weight and metabolism, so adjust this amount based on what works for you.
5. Water isn’t the only source of hydration
If you struggle with drinking enough water, try these alternatives: sparkling water, herbal tea, Aloe concentrate, coconut water, freshly squeezed or pasteurised juices in moderation, or water with fragrant additions like lemon, herbs, or fruit.
Taking care of your body and making sure it stays fit and healthy starts with proper hydration. It’s not possible to train your body to handle dehydration, so don’t delay fluid replacement.