We know it's important to stay hydrated – especially when exercising. In fact, being dehydrated by just 2% of our bodyweight can significantly affect our exercise performance. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, read on to get my tips on how and why we should hydrate appropriately.
Whether you are an avid gym goer or exercise once a week – hydration can be the key to having an enjoyable and effective workout. Rehydrating correctly is also important for exercise recovery, so it should be considered before, during and after all workouts. Dehydration can cause us to become fatigued faster and our core temperature can also rise quickly, making exercise much harder.
As a general rule, if you're exercising at a moderate intensity for an hour or less, drinking just water will be adequate to help you stay hydrated. For more intense exercise or when exercising for more than an hour, sports drinks may come in handy, as they help replace lost electrolytes as well as carbohydrates for energy. That said, there are cheaper alternatives to sports drinks which can be just as effective!
Sports drinks like Lucozade were originally developed to help high-level athletes stay hydrated during workouts by replacing water and minerals lost. Nowadays, there is a huge array of choice and it's harder to know exactly what we need. Sports drinks are marketed as functional, and consumers can buy into this – but there's really no need to go to this extra expense in most cases. For many of us, simply sticking to water is adequate.
Although the amount we sweat and its composition can be quite different between individuals, if you are exercising heavily for longer than an hour, you can easily and cheaply rehydrate and replace any lost minerals. Having something like sugary squash or even diluting orange juice with some water and adding a pinch of salt would be sufficient – and cheap!
Sports research into the best hydration strategy has identified 4 things to consider for post exercise hydration. Getting these four things right has been shown to improve exercise performance, aid recovery and even boost energy levels!
Being well hydrated can have a significant effect not only on exercise performance but also general wellbeing! Drinking enough water has been shown to increase energy levels, boost brain function and aid appetite regulation – so there’s no denying, if you hydrate, you'll feel great!
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.