The 7 Hydration and Exercise Rules
Every Athlete Needs To Know

What do hydration and exercise have to do with each other? How much water should you drink before exercise? During? After?

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No matter what kind of exercise you do, hydration and athletic performance are intimately connected. Even minor levels of dehydration can have a severe impact on your athletic performance.[1] This is especially true of repeated or sustained or high-power efforts, like sprinting or intense sports.[2]

Luckily, there are some simple hydration and exercise rules to follow to keep yourself in great shape for your game, run, or competition. And they don't take a lot of effort - so try them out.

- 7 Hydration and Exercise Rules -

1. Don't Start Drinking Water When You're Thirsty

Follow these rules about hydration and exercise to perform at your best.

Never rely on yourself getting thirsty to indicate that you should be drinking fluids. By then, you're already dehydrated - probably by about 1.5 - 2 liters![3]

If you're really dehydrated, it can take up to 24 hours to get back to being fully hydrated.[4] So, you need to be drinking continually throughout the day to keep your fluid level up.

If you have to drop your body's water for some reason (e.g. a wrestler weighing in the day before a competition), make sure you drink tons of water after the weigh in. You should be pissing like a racehorse, and if not, drink more - you do not want to be dehydrated when you have to wrestle someone into submission.

Keeping a water bottle handy during the day is a great way to do this. You don't have to consciously think about drinking water, and since it's there just take sips every 10 minutes or so. I think you'll be surprised at how much you drink - I know I was shocked to see how often I was refilling my water bottle when I started doing this!

This will make you piss a lot too, but you'll be pissing because you have surplus water in your system. That is precisely what you want when you're doing hydration and exercise together.

2. Make Sure Your Urine Is Clear

This is a good indicator of whether you have enough fluids in your system. If your urine is clear, then you have enough water in your body to lose some and be fine.

If your urine is yellow and over-concentrated, that means that you don't have enough fluids. And you should really be drinking more.5

3. Drink Plenty of Fluids To Prepare For Exercise

When you're doing intense exercise, you lose a lot of water. Drink more so that your hydration and exercise go together and complement each other.

About 1 to 2 hours before your exercise, game, or whatever, consume a lot of fluids - about 0.5 L is a good amount to make sure you're hydrated, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).[6][7] Then, as the time of the event comes closer, keep sipping water - about half a cup every 10 minutes.[8]

4. Don't Drink Liquids That Will Dehydrate You

Don't drink liquids with diuretic properties, because they'll make you urinate more than normal. These will dehydrate you, which is the opposite of what you're trying to do.

Caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, and sodas won't help you.[9] Beer and anything else with alcohol is off the list, too.

So, make sure that you're drinking either water or sports drinks to hydrate yourself. They'll help both your hydration and exercise, while all that other schlock will not.

5. Only Superhydrate Under Controlled Conditions

Dehydration is a lack of liquids in your body. Superhydration, on the other hand, means consuming tons more liquids than normal.

This is normally done by marathon runners and other athletes performing endurance type events. Superhydration is associated with a higher sweat rate and lower heart rate, making it an excellent technique to use if you need stamina.[10]

This is not useful for all athletic events, and it can be irritating to be constantly drinking before your event. But keep it in the back of your mind in case you ever need to get an extra advantage over someone else.

Also, never superhydrate for the first time before a match, or without telling your coach/teacher/etc. If something goes wrong, superhydrating doesn't give you the benefits you need, etc., you don't want it to affect your match. Make sure to try it before your day of reckoning, so that you're not changing up variables when you shouldn't be.[11]

6. Drink Fluids With Some Carbs When You're Exercising
(e.g. Sports Drinks, Orange Juice, Etc.)

During your exercise when you take timeouts, breaks, or whenever you have a few seconds to drink something - drink something with simple carbs. It'll boost your hydration and exercise together to drastically improve your performance.

Ideally, the carb (basically, sugar) concentration in your drink(s) should be about 6 - 8% by volume.[12] Consuming these beverages when you're exercising will not only keep your fluid level high, it will also give you energy for your exercise.[13]

Also, the slight amounts of sugar will actually help your body absorb the fluid faster.[14] Pretty damn cool!

You can get up to a 12.5% increase in performance by drinking fluids with simple carbs when exercising.[15] Which is a huge advantage.

You should drink about 600 - 1,200 ml (2.5 - 5 cups) of liquid per hour - again, according to the ACSM guidelines.16 And don't drink it all at once; try to take sips here and there, rather than chugging all that liquid on the hour.

  • Interesting Fact: Your body suppresses the sensation of thirst during exercise. So, drink water when you get breaks in your exercise even if you don't feel that you need to.[17]

7. Drink Lots of Fluids After Exercise

After your exercise, you should drink enough water to get your bodyweight back to where it was before you exercised.[18] The ACSM recommends that you drink 150% of the amount that will restore you to your pre-exercise weight, since you'll probably lose some of that water when you urinate after your exercise.[19]

Basically, drink till you're back to normal.

So, there are your 7 hydration and exercise rules. If you follow them, you will perform much better than if you were dehydrated. It's dirt cheap, and it really makes a difference.

Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!

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The 7 Hydration and Exercise Rules That Every Athlete Needs To Know

1. Benardot, Dan, and Dan Benardot. 2006. Advanced Sports Nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Pp. 92.
2. Ibid. Pp. 285.
3. Ibid. Pp. 94.
4. Ibid. Pp. 92.
5. Ibid. Pp. 94.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid. Pp. 285.
8. Ibid. Pp. 94.
9. Ibid. Pp. 285.
10. Ibid. Pp. 93.
11. Ibid. Pp. 94.
12. Ibid. 98.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid. Pp. 285.
17. Ibid. Pp. 94.
18. Ibid. Pp. 285.
19. Ibid.

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