The weather is quickly turning warmer and warmer, the sun is staying out longer, and you are ready to increase your outdoor physical activity. Whether you are running, hiking, walking, training, playing sports, or spending the day outside with friends and family, keeping hydrated is extremely important. Hydrating may seem like a simple concept, drink some liquid throughout the day and you’re all set, right? Not necessarily. Despite the simplicity on the surface, there is much more than just consuming the necessary amount of fluids to remain hydrated and keep your body fueled before, during, and after any sort of physical exertion.

Why is it Important to Stay Hydrated?

Hydration is involved in not only providing the body with enough fluids to function during exercise and throughout any regular day, but also to prevent subsequent injuries and illnesses. With proper hydration, your joints are adequately lubricated, your internal body temperature is better regulated, and your body is primed for adequate nutrient transportation and absorption for optimal health. Without proper hydration, your body will not be able to participate at its highest level of functioning and can place you at an increased risk of injury. Poor hydration can cause a series of symptoms such as: dizziness, dry mouth, decreased sweat, fatigue, muscle cramps, and can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

What is Proper Hydration?

There is no exact number or set of rules to ensure that you are properly hydrated due to the fact that everyone is different. The way that you, compared to someone like LeBron James, will absorb and require fluids is vastly different. Things such as how much you sweat, how hot it is outside, how humid it is, and how long, and to what degree you are performing all play a role. The American Council on Exercise has suggested a series of guidelines:

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising
  • Drink 8 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during your exercise regimen
  • Drink 8 ounces of fluid no more than 30 minutes after you complete your form of exercise

These are not perfectly set guidelines, as each individual is different, so keep that in mind. Remember all of the signs and symptoms of poor hydration, as this will give you a better indicator to if the above guidelines are appropriate for you.

What Should I Be Drinking?

Here comes the never-ending conversation of “what should I be drinking? Water? Gatorade?” To answer this in the simplest way, then the answer is “yes.” To break this question down more we need to think about what our goal is in regards to hydration.

Rehydration: rehydration is when you trying to keep the body cool and to maintain fluid balance during performance. Rehydration is critical before and during any sort of physical activity. You need to replenish your body with easily absorbed fluid to maintain prime performance. Your best option for rehydration is going to be consuming water or very diluted sports drinks. Water or diluted sports drinks have decreased amounts of carbohydrates or other simple sugars that will interfere with absorption and nutrient transportation. Drinking a sports drink that is carbohydrate and sugar heavy will end up slowing down your performance and cause you to become more easily fatigued.

Replenishmentreplenishment is when you are at the point where your body has utilized a vast majority its energy stores. It is now time to consume fluids that have high levels of electrolytes and sugars. The rule of thumb is to try and consume some sort of beverage that has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. For example, the new Gatorade Recover series protein shake has 45 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein. This does not perfectly fir the mentioned ratio, but is close. The importance is that you are drinking the appropriate nutrients for optimal recovery. Water or diluted sports drinks will simply continues water absorption and will lead you with frequent bathroom stops and a decreased desire to consume liquids.

Drink Up!

Now is the time! Stock up on your water, electrolytes, and recovery drinks. This preparation and knowledge base will help you stay hydrated and decrease your risk for all of those unwanted symptoms of dehydration. Proper hydration equates to prime performance. Don’t neglect your body as it is the most important and invaluable piece of equipment you will ever have in your life!