Whether you’re a serious athlete or simply exercise for recreation, it’s important to stay hydrated. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level and you may feel tired, have muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, or other serious symptoms.
A simple way to make sure you’re staying properly hydrated is to check your urine. If your urine is usually colorless or light yellow, you are most likely well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine can be a sign of dehydration.
Everyone is different so the amount of fluids we all need vary. You need to consider factors including your sweat rate, the heat and humidity in your environment, and how long and hard you are exercising.
The American Council on Exercise has suggested the following basic guidelines for drinking water before, during, and after exercise:
Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising.
Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up.
Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.
Athletes may want to measure how much fluid they lose during exercise to get a more specific measurement of how much water to drink (16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost).
For most people, water is all that is needed to stay hydrated. However, you may also benefit from added electrolytes. While you can get these from sports drinks, they typically have added sugars, coloring or additives. My preference is to go for something more natural, like coconut water for example. You still want to check the sugar content as some of the flavored versions still can add a fair amount.