The NHS recommends that we drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids per day (1) ideally in its purest and healthiest form as water. However other liquids such as reduced sugar or sugar free drinks, tea and coffee can also contribute to water intake. In addition to drinking liquids, it’s a great idea to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet as these tend to be high in water and can help to maintain hydration.
Of course these recommendations are just guidelines as there are always circumstances such as hot weather and exercise that will require you to drink more water to prevent dehydration.
My advice for staying hydrated whilst exercising:
- Always make sure you are fully hydrated before starting any exercise. If you are dehydrated your body will find it harder to control its core temperature, and your heart will have to work harder… meaning it will likely affect performance.
- Drinking too much, too quickly can also have a detrimental effect on sporting performance as it can result in a feeling of bloating or a sudden urge to use the toilet which can distract away from the exercise. Try to keep a bottle nearby so that you can drink little and often to maintain a good hydration level.
- For day to day gym sessions lasting up to 2 hours, or low intensity exercise such as yoga, the only fluid you should require in order to maintain hydration is water. If you are the type who sweats a lot, then be aware that you need to replace the water lost during your exercise and ensure you drink throughout and after the session.
- When we sweat we lose some electrolytes such as potassium, calcium and sodium. All of these contribute to muscle function and support the body’s uptake of water. Likewise, carbohydrates are needed to fuel the body and maintain energy levels, which means if carbohydrate stores or electrolyte levels are depleted through exercise, then it can result in dehydration and reduced sporting performance. As a consequence, some forms of exercise may see an improvement in performance with the inclusion of carbohydrates and electrolytes in a sports drink. This is most commonly beneficial during endurance exercise lasting over 2 hours; such as a long distance cycling events or marathons, and also high intensity exercise lasting more than an hour, such as a rugby game.
With all this in mind, you’re probably thinking it’s good to know…but how on earth can I tell if I’m well hydrated or not?! Luckily there is a very simple way to tell and although it’s not glamorous, the colour of your urine is the best indicator…