How to stay hydrated before, during & after your gym workout

April 05 2016

We accept that we need to drink water for health reasons, but do we really understand how to stay hydrated during exercise?

. So what are we supposed to believe?

- to set the record straight.

Effects of dehydration on the body

Failing to drink water can have a major impact on your performance during exerciseAccording to Carly, a mere 2% reduction in fluids can result in a 10% to 20% degradation in performance, which underlines the importance of staying hydrated during exercise.

“Dehydration can affect your performance at the gym or during sport. It can lead to a loss of strength and stamina and cause fatigue. The tell-tale signs of dehydration are thirst and dark coloured urine. This is your body's way of trying to increase intake and decrease water loss.

“Dehydration can cause digestive issues, constipation and can make you feel hungrier as your brain confuses hunger and thirst.”

How much water should I be drinking?

Increase your water intake during intense workoutsThis depends on a number of variables, not least the level of activity you plan to undertake. A marathon runner will obviously have different requirements to somebody who is doing a 30-minute weights session in the gym.

The weather can also make a big difference. You’ll sweat a lot more in warmer conditions.

“General guidelines suggest that we drink two litres of water per day. I'd suggest increasing this by 500ml per hour of intense training. Increase this again if you tend to sweat a lot when you exercise.”

Should I drink water before exercising?

This is where a lot of people come unstuck. You’ll take a bottle of water to the gym to consume mid-workout, but by this point you’re already on the back foot unless you’ve topped up your fluid levels prior to your session.

Carly continued.

“You're most dehydrated when you wake up, so replenishing your fluid levels can help to set you up for the day.”


How to stay hydrated during exercise

Make sure you stay hydrated during exerciseGetting enough water on board when you’re in full flow can be easier said than done, but it’s imperative that you don’t allow your levels to dip.


“A short water break between sets or during quick breaks from cardio can help stave off exercise-induced dehydration.”

What are the best hydrating drinks?

Not that we were expecting you to have a gin and slimline tonic on the go between each set of assisted pullups, but nevertheless it’s worth reiterating that plain old water is the most suitable drink to have on hand during your workout.

Of course, much depends on the length and intensity of your workout.

Carly warned.

“Electrolytes are minerals that, amongst other things, regulate the level of water in your body. A regular gym session probably doesn't require a fancy sports drink but long-distance runners or those who train with great intensity would do well to replenish their electrolytes.”

Is coconut water all it's cracked up to be? , and has become a somewhat divisive product in health and fitness circles. While some point towards the high natural sugar content in some brands and the fact that it has become renowned as the trendy beverage of choice among the hipster community, there are many plus points, especially from a hydration perspective.

Carly said.

“Electrolytes include, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorides, phosphates and iron. These are usually maintained by a healthy diet of proteins, fruits and veggies but can be lost through excessive sweat. Coconut water can help to redress the balance.”

What to eat after a workout

20% of your daily water intake should come from solid foodsWhile many of us fail to take hydration into account before our workouts, even more of us let ourselves down after an exercise session.

– drinking 50% more fluid than you lost through sweat will help to boost your recovery. The guide also emphasises the point that the fastest way to recover is sipping small amounts of water regularly, rather than guzzling down litre after litre in one go.

20% of your daily water intake should come from solid foods.

Carly commented.


4 ways to spot dehydration during your workout

As we’ve already alluded to, our bodies can play tricks on us when our fluid levels start to drop. Carly has four tips to help you recognise the effects of dehydration before it starts to become a problem. These are all healthy water drinking habits to get into…

1. Check your muscles  


2. Dry mouth

"One of the first signs of dehydration is dry mouth. If your mouth starts feeling like the Sahara, head to the water fountain or take a sip from your reusable water bottle!"

3. Pinch yourself (yes really!)

"Go ahead, pinch yourself! Skin elasticity, which is the skin’s ability to change shape and return to normal, is an easy way to check your hydration (though not 100% reliable for everyone). Using your pointer finger and thumb, simply pinch the skin on the back of your hand (not too hard!) and hold for a few seconds. When you let go, if the skin takes a while to return to its normal position, you may be dehydrated."

4. Are you feeling dizzy?

"Feeling lightheaded during a workout is a sign of dehydration and a signal to tone it down a notch. Though willpower sometimes makes us want to push ourselves through a few more reps or another mile, feeling dizzy is an indicator that it’s time to hydrate.


Want to learn even more? Here's 4 ways training in water helps your workout. 

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