Fluids play a vital role in maintaining the health and function of your heart, brain, and muscles. They also help carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from the body, protects vital organs, and can prevent digestive issues such as constipation. It is important to get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise so that you can best regulate your body temperature and perform at optimal levels. Therefore, it is essential to assess your hydration status throughout the day to ensure you’re taking in an adequate amount of fluids. Let’s learn more about how to assess your hydration status.
It is crucial to track your hydration status because when you don’t get enough fluids, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration is marked by urine that is dark in color, dizziness, headaches, general weakness, and confusion. You may experience muscle cramps, low blood pressure, nausea or vomiting, and other serious symptoms as well. It is especially important to be aware of the signs of dehydration during the summer months (when it is hotter), in athletes and people who experience increased bouts of sweat, and in older adults.
Gauging Hydration Status
When you are properly hydrated, you may experience improved sleep patterns, brain function, and mood. You can stay hydrated by being conscious of your water intake. Be sure to drink small amounts of liquids throughout the day, not all at one time. Eating foods with a higher water content can also be beneficial. This includes things like fruit, veggies, and soup. Another way to gauge your hydration status would be to check your urine. It should be colorless or light yellow. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine may be a sign of dehydration.
Hydration for Exercise
When you are exercising, you should consider factors including your sweat rate and the duration of your workout. Environmental factors like the heat and humidity will also play a role in how much water you should drink during and after exercise. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests following these basic guidelines:
- Drink 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise
- Drink 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before exercise or during your warm-up
- Drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise
- Drink 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes after exercise
A more specific measurement for athletes would be to weigh themselves before and after exercise.
Drink 16-24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
Water or Sports Drinks?
Most people will only need water to stay hydrated, however, it you are exercising at a high intensity for 90 minutes or longer, you may benefit more from a sports drink. Sports drinks usually contain carbohydrates for energy and electrolytes to replace what is lost in sweat. Make sure that you read the nutrition facts label of a sports drink as most contain added sugar and some may contain caffeine.
If you have questions about how to assess your hydration status on a daily basis, you can sit down with me for a free nutrition consultation. I can also help you with your goals to eat healthier!Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.