Published on

Adrian    Water for your workout

Water is one of the most abundant natural resources on the planet covering 71% of the Earth’s surface. It also flows through our bodies contributing to 50-70% of our total body weight. Without it, there would be no life on Earth. I find that most people don’t drink enough water, especially before, during, or after physical activity. We often overlook its vital role in helping our bodies to function. Water helps to:

Regulate body temperature through sweating;
• Transport nutrients and oxygen to cells;
Remove waste products from cells and the body.

Most sources recommend that we drink 8-12 cups of fluid every day. This is because on average, our bodies lose about 9 ½ cups of water when we sweat, breathe or go to the bathroom. Water loss from sweating can increase dramatically due to hot conditions, exercise and fevers. Basically, if you sweat a lot and don’t drink enough, you will become dehydrated. Keep in mind that even if you are training in water (e.g. swimming) or on ice (e.g. hockey) you are still losing fluid through sweat and are still at risk.


By the time you start to feel thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include thirst, dizziness, tiredness and nausea. People also experience chills, headache and even muscle cramps. Without fluid replacement, dehydration can lead to:

Decreased blood volume and blood available to the heart and muscles;
Less oxygen for working muscles;
Impaired performance;
Heat illness due to high body temperature, low blood pressure and increased pulse;
Heat stroke, which can lead to death if not treated.

If you are having a hard time keeping track of how many cups of water you need to drink, there are two simple ways you to see if you are dehydrated.

1. Colour: If your urine is light coloured (lemonade), you are hydrated; dark coloured (apple juice), probably means you are dehydrated and need to drink more fluid.

2. Weight: If you weigh yourself before and after exercise any weight loss is likely due to a loss of fluid. Drink three cups for every one pound lost during activity.

More is not always better

Over-drinking or “hyper-hydrating” after exercise may cause hyponatremia, where the sodium concentration in the blood falls below normal. Drinking a large volume of water in a short amount of time without replacing your electrolytes puts you at the greatest risk. Signs of hyponatremia include weight/fluid gain, swollen fingers, mental confusion or general weakness. In serious cases, this can lead to seizure, coma or even death.

Fluid guidelines for physical activity

Pre-exercise: Drink 2-3 cups of water.
During exercise: Drink ½ - 1 cup of water every 15 minutes.
Immediately after exercise: Use colour of urine and weight loss as reference. Water is still a good choice, but you can also have milk, chocolate milk, 100% fruit juice or sports drinks.

Fluids to avoid during exercise

Carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, and high-energy drinks (e.g. Red Bull) may cause stomach discomfort and have an adverse effect on exercise.
Alcohol and caffeinated beverages act as diuretics causing fluid loss and dehydration.

Water vs. sport drinks

For exercise lasting less than an hour, water can adequately meet your fluid needs. During intense exercise or sessions lasting longer than an hour, your body loses sodium and potassium through sweat. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, provide you with quick energy from carbohydrates and replenish your electrolytes. They are also helpful for exercise in hot, humid weather or during tournaments where fluids need to be replaced quickly.

Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go to ensure you have easy access to drinking water. Remember, we all have our individual fluid needs. It’s important to listen to your body and watch for the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article to ensure that you achieve a healthy balance.

Reference: Dieticians of Canada

Adrian Salonga is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor’s degree of Medical Rehabilitation in Physical Therapy.

Have a comment on this article? Send us your feedback