It is important to properly replenish fluids after a tough workout. Here is a detailed guide on how to rehydrate after working out.
Did you know that your cells need water to synthesize energy and propel you through a tough workout? Not only that, but water is essential in regulating your body temperature and reducing strain on your cardiovascular system.
If you're like most people, you probably think of water as the best way to rehydrate after a workout. And that's true—water is essential for restoring fluids lost through sweating. Learning how to rehydrate can help you recover faster and see better results.
However, sports drinks can also be helpful in rehydrating, especially if you've been exercising for more than an hour or have been sweating a lot. So which is better: water or sports drinks? And, how can you spot the signs of dehydration before it ever occurs? Read on to find out.
How Much Water Does Your Body Need a Day?
If you’re not working out and sweating a lot, the average adult needs:
15.5 cups (124 ounces) of water a day for men
11.5 cups (92 ounces) of water a day for women
While these are recommendations for how much fluids you should be getting a day, if you’re working out it’s a good idea to go ahead and consume that much water to ensure your body is hydrated properly.
If you’re working out strenuously and engaging in sports training then you’ll obviously need more. In general, you can expect to drink at least 7 to 10 ounces of fluid for every 10 to 20 minutes you exercise moderately.
Signs of Dehydration
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “I drink water to replace fluids constantly throughout my workout. I’m fine.” And chances are you are fine. However, it’s still important to understand the signs and symptoms of dehydration to ensure you know what to look out for.
When it comes down to it, the signs of dehydration can vary depending on the person. However, some common signs indicate that someone is dehydrated. These include:
Having a dry mouth
Having dark-colored urine
In more urgent situations you might find that someone who is severely dehydrated exhibits the following symptoms:
If you suspect that you or someone you know is dehydrated to this point, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Dehydration can be dangerous and even life-threatening if it is not treated promptly.
Signs of severe dehydration include sunken eyes, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, confusion, and unconsciousness. If you experience any of these signs, seek medical help immediately.
Staying Hydrated: Before & During a Workout
To prevent any of the symptoms mentioned above it’s important to learn how to hydrate properly before, during, and after your workouts.
Hydrating before and during your workout can not only help prevent dehydration but it can also help prevent fatigue, cramps, and other problems. So, how do you do this? Ultimately, your personal trainer can make recommendations based on your body weight.
However, to hydrate before a workout, drink 8-12 ounces of water or another beverage about 30 minutes beforehand. During the workout, aim to drink 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.
Sports drinks can be a good option for hydration during exercise, as they not only provide fluids but also replace electrolytes that are lost through sweat.
How to Rehydrate After a Workout
How much fluid you need to drink after a workout depends on how long and intense your workout was, as well as the temperature and humidity.
A good rule of thumb is to drink 16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during exercise. If you're not sure how much you've lost, weigh yourself before and after your workout.
It’s important to remember that you’re measuring mostly water weight, so don’t let this number affect your training too much.
Another way to measure how much you need to properly rehydrate is to consider when your next workout will be. If you're going to wait over 24 hours then you should be fine rehydrating like normal. Studies show you naturally consume the fluids you need through food and other fluids if you space your workouts with enough time in between.
However, if you’ll be working out within 6 to 12 hours then you might need to consume more fluids. Specifically, you’ll need to consider replacing the salt you lost through sweat.
If you’ve already weighed yourself to see how much weight you lost during your workout then you’ll want to have the number on hand.
This is because the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you replace 125% to 150% of that weight loss with between 1 g/L to 2 g/L of sodium. When you do this, try to spread it out by drinking 500ml at a time every 30 minutes or so.
When you drink fluids too fast, you risk stimulating your urine production in a way that leads to you releasing all of that water instead of giving your body time to absorb it.
Rehydration Tips & FAQs
Still have questions about how to rehydrate your body properly as you train to meet your goals? Here are some of the most common questions and their respective answers.
How Long Does It Take to Rehydrate?
How quickly you rehydrate depends on your age, weight, and fitness level. Children and older adults tend to get dehydrated more easily than young adults because they have a higher body surface area-to-mass ratio and therefore lose more fluid through their skin.
Obese people also tend to get dehydrated more easily because they have more body fat, which doesn't have high water content. Finally, athletes who train regularly have a higher tolerance to dehydration and can rehydrate more quickly than sedentary people.
If you're unsure if you're drinking enough fluids or if you're at risk for dehydration, consult your trainer. They can help you develop a hydration plan that's tailored to your individual needs.
What Fluids Are Best for Rehydrating?
Water is the best choice for rehydrating, but if you're looking for a little extra flavor or electrolytes, try a sports drink. Sports drinks can also be effective for rehydration, but they tend to be high in sugar.
If you're looking for a low-sugar option, coconut water is a good choice. It contains electrolytes like potassium and sodium, which can help restore hydration levels.
If you’re not a fan of drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, you can try sparkling water or even add your own electrolytes to your water.
However, it's important to avoid sugary beverages like sodas and fruit juices, as they can contribute to dehydration. And be sure to drink slowly; gulping down too much at once can cause nausea or vomiting.
Do I Need Electrolytes During My Workout?
It’s a good idea to consume electrolytes during or after your workout, yes. They’re essential for proper muscle function and hydration during exercise.
What happens is that, when you sweat, you lose water via your pores. However, that water contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These electrolytes are important for maintaining fluid balance, muscle function, and blood pressure.
Without enough electrolytes, you may experience cramping, headaches, fatigue, or even heat stroke. To avoid these problems, be sure to replenish your electrolytes by drinking a sports drink or eating salty (but healthy) foods after your workout. A pro tip? Skip the Vitamin Water.
What to Eat to Support Hydration
What you eat and drink can have a big impact on your hydration levels. Water is, of course, the best option for staying hydrated, but some other foods and beverages can also help.
For example, fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon and cucumber, can help to keep you hydrated. In addition, soup and broth are good options, as they not only contain water but also electrolytes like sodium that can help to replenish the body.
In general, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you stay hydrated. Good choices that aren’t watermelon and cucumber include foods such as oranges and cantaloupes as well as leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Spinach is about 93% water so it's a great way to replenish lost water post-exercise while also supporting your health in other ways.
Nutrition Coaching & Sports Training Services
If you're not sure how to rehydrate or whether you're rehydrating properly to support your fitness goals then you should get in touch with a trainer and fitness specialist. At AC Fitness & Sports Training, we can help you with just that.
Whether you're interested in nutrition coaching that will help you understand what to eat and drink for proper hydration and post-exercise recovery or need help with personal training sessions (remote or in-person), we're here to help you meet and exceed your goals.
Schedule a free consultation today so we can learn more about you, your goals, and how we can help create a fitness and nutrition plan that will help you achieve them.