Five ways to stay hydrated during exercise

Topping up your fluids while exercising is about more than just drinking water. We ask those in the know how it should be done.

Being well hydrated during your workout is important to help keep your body performing at its peak. But did you know you might be missing out on optimal rehydration by not drinking the right fluid at the right time and in the right amounts? 
Here are five tips to help keep you at peak hydration.

TIP ONE: Weigh yourself before and after exercise

No two people perspire alike. Gender, body size, age, the type of exercise you’re doing, the temperature and the environment you’re exercising in are all factors that can determine how much you’ll sweat in any given exercise session. 

Weighing yourself before and after exercise will give you a rough indication of how much fluid you’ll need to replace. “Losing one kilogram of weight is roughly equivalent to losing one litre of fluid,” says Alison Patterson, advanced sports dietitian at Sports Dietitians Australia. As a general rule, you should aim to replace one litre of fluid lost in sweat with 1.5 litres of water, so be sure to make a pre- and post-exercise weigh-in part of any workout routine if possible.

TIP TWO: Save sports drinks for extended and strenuous exercise

In most exercise sessions, water is the simple solution to keep dehydration at bay. But for long training sessions and competition days when exercise is particularly strenuous or more than 90 minutes, you might also need to top up your carbohydrate stores. 

Patterson suggests drinking sports drinks that contain electrolyte powders and tablets to refuel your body. “These fluids have extra sodium which helps the body to rehydrate more effectively when fluid losses are high,” she says.

TIP THREE: Sip small amounts regularly, don’t gulp

Slamming down large mouthfuls of water may seem like the most efficient way to rehydrate, but it’s better to take smaller sips.
“Sipping on small amounts regularly makes it easier for your body to use the fluid, meaning that you meet your hydration goals more effectively,” says Patterson. 

Besides, gulping down large mouthfuls can have another uncomfortable side effect. “It can lead to unwanted toilet stops as the body can’t retain large volumes of fluid as effectively as regular, small amounts,” she points out.
Woman drinking sports drink

TIP FOUR: Take note of physical symptoms that indicate dehydration

It may sound like an odd thing to do, but checking the colour of your urine is a good way to monitor your hydration levels, according to Patterson. 

“The darker your urine the more likely you are to be dehydrated,” she says. Patterson advises drinking enough water before, during and after exercise to ensure your urine is pale yellow. Also look out for other signs of dehydration such as headaches, fatigue and poor concentration and be sure to drink more water when these symptoms show up. 

TIP FIVE: Choose a sports drink with the right composition

When a sports drink is needed, choose one that has optimal levels of carbohydrate and sodium. “A good sports drink should contain 6 per cent carbohydrate (6g per 100ml) and 20-70mg per 100ml of sodium,” says Patterson. If you’re mixing up your own from powder, stick to the manufacturer’s directions so that your drink is neither too dilute or too concentrated.
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