Some athletes spend hundreds of dollars on what they eat and agonize over caloric and nutrient consumption, but they neglect the most important half of their diet: What they should be drinking. Our bodies are 90% water, and exercising without hydration is like squeezing a sponge dry. Fortunately there are many proven solutions to keep athletes well-hydrated and at their top performance level. Here are some suggestions for what athletes should be drinking before, during, and after exercise.
Before Exercise: Fill Up Your Tank
Your body is constantly losing water to evaporation and sweat — even when you are not exercising — and many athletes believe that because they haven't started exercising they don't need to start hydrating. This is a recipe for fatigue and injury! Would you start a road trip without filling up your car's gas tank? Of course not — so why do so many athletes start exercising without filling up their bodies with liquid?
Start by drinking at least 500 mL of water for every hour you plan to exercise. For a two hour run, you should start by drinking 1000 mL (or 1 liter) of water. You do not need to drink it all at once — you can drink it over 10-20 minutes as you warm up and stretch for your workout.
During Exercise: Restock Fluids, Restock Nutrients
We are all aware of how much fluid is lost due to sweat during exercise, but your body's cells also need to replenish their essential ions and nutrients. These compounds are vital to healthy respiration, circulation, and muscle motion. It is also important for muscle growth after exercise — depleting your muscles of minerals and nutrients during exercise decreases the quality of your workout, producing less muscle growth afterward.
As you exercise, drink 2 liters of fluid for every hour of exercise. Consume more if your workout is particularly strenuous or if the temperature and humidity are high. Additionally, you may want to drink a nutrient-enriched sports drink or a scientifically engineered health drink like Monavie acai juice to help replenish lost minerals and restore your energy levels. Avoid sugary drinks (especially popular sports drinks or dark colas) which will only increase your thirst and cause your energy levels to spike before suddenly crashing.
After Exercise: Rehydrate, Replenish, Rebuild
Your body will continue to lose fluids due to sweat and respiration after exercise. Try to drink 500-1000 mL of fluid during the hour following exercise as you are stretching and cooling down. This will help restore lost fluids, maintain your hydration level, and help boost muscle regeneration and immune system defenses as you recover from exercise. Drinks that offer hydration, nutrients, and immune system boosts are a great option for rehydrating after strenuous exercise.
This can also be an opportunity to restore hydration through foods with high moisture content like strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or pineapple. These fruits can be eaten whole or blended into a fruit smoothie — a delicious, refreshing, low-calorie reward for your hard work. You can even blend it with wheat germ or protein powder to aid muscle recovery after your workout.