Hydrating During Exercise

Hydration during Exercise

Knowing what to drink before during and after exercise is a tricky issue. There is so much contradictory information available in the modern age that it difficult to know what is proper scientifically backed fact and what is myth, entered into the information chain wrongly and then simply passed from person to person. Although I could go on forever going into the detail of what to do and what not to do I have broken it down into 5 easy tips to help to maximise your performance during exercise.


1.)    Drink water before your start exercising.

Although this sounds like common sense, it does not happen as often as possible. If you are one of these people who “only drink while they exercise” you are doing yourself a great disservice. The truth is that you should start preparing for exercise about 2 hours before you start. This simply means start drinking water early. Remember drinking too much water is difficult (10-12 litres of water daily for a month is too much) so preparing correctly for your class is important in having a great work-out. This is especially important for classes where you sweat a lot (BodyBox/Zumba … I’m looking at you). You won’t drink enough during the class to replace the fluid lost through exercise.


2.)    Be careful what you drink leading up to exercising.

Not all drinks are created equally in terms of suitability for pre-exercise hydration. Caffeine based drinks (including tea, coffee and energy drinks) are all completely unsuitable for this purpose. Caffeine causes dehydration if you consume 4 or more cups in a day. Any less than that however can cause anxiousness and can leave you feeling jittery-not the best condition to be going exercising in. Obviously alcohol is also a no-go area in terms of pre exercise hydration! The best, calorie free, inexpensive option is and always has been water.


3.)    During the class drink whenever possible.

As stated above you will not replace all of the fluid lost in a class by drinking during the class. However by constantly topping up throughout the class you can delay the effects of dehydration. It is also important to note that when you get thirsty, it is too late. Performance and concentration levels are negatively affected before you get thirsty. So if you wait until you need a drink, your ability to perform at your peak has already been lost. Therefore the best solution is to either bring your drink from place to place with you in your class or to leave it within arm’s reach (BodyBox people this should sound familiar!). This way any small break in the class is an opportunity for a drink. If you leave it down the back of the class, your relying on the class instructor to send you for a drink, which may occur less often then you need it. So keep it near and sip as often as you can!


4.)    Using sports drinks during exercise

We have all seen Lucozade Sport, Powerade, Gatorade and the likes of these being endorsed for use during exercise. They claim to provide the fuel (sugar) boost you need to increase your performance and achieve your goals. However nutritional science tells us that the average human body has enough sugars and fuel in the body to last at high intensity exercise for an hour. So the question is: if we have enough fuel to last us for that period of time do we need a further boost? NO. Anything that lasts for less than an hour does not require sports drinks. In fact use of these sports drinks may add sugar to the system that you will not burn off in the course of the class. Lucozade original 380ml bottle contains 52.9 grams of sugar. Put in context Classic Coca Cola has 39grams per 330ml can. So if you don’t need this added sugar boost, and you cannot burn it off you instead end up storing it and it subsequently requires further exercise to burn it off or it will turn to adipose tissue (fat) for storage, thus defeating the point of exercising in the first place!


5.)    Drinking post exercise

How much should you drink after exercise? The science says you should drink 150% of the fluid lost during an exercise session in the 30 minutes immediately after exercise. To do this you need to weigh yourself before and after each session. Make sure it is on the same scales and wearing the same clothing, shoes etc. For every gram of weight lost, you need to drink 1.5 ml’s of water. So if you have exercised on a hot day and lost 0.2Kg’s, you should drink 300 ml’s of fluid immediately after exercise. In this case I would again suggest water. The sugars and proteins used during the class (depending on the type of class) can be replaced with food (a topic for another day!). After the 30 minutes post exercise, the recommendations are similar to those for pre exercise hydration. Sip constantly to prevent yourself becoming thirsty for about 2 hours after the class (if your awake that long!). Any electrolyte imbalance in the body which sports drinks claim to fix can also be resolved with a post exercise snack, preferably fruit based.



An interesting aside to the issue of hydration. Alcohol stays in the body for up to 48-72 hours after it has been consumed. In that period each pint of beer, glass of wine or shot of spirits needs to replaced with 6 PINTS of water. It always surprises people just how much dehydration and how long lasting the effects of alcohol are.



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