You’re not you when you’re thirsty. If you forget your water bottle the next time you hit the gym, you won’t just feel parched. You’ll also be weaker!
That’s because hydration is a key part of athletic performance. And we’re not talking about lost-in-the-desert dehydration either. In fact, the negative effects kick in when you're just slightly dehydrated.
For example, if you lose just 2.5% of your body weight through sweat and don’t replenish it, your ability to do high-intensity exercise drops by as much as 45%.
A whole host of problems kick in when you’re dehydrated, and each of these symptoms affect your ability to run, lift weights, swim or do any other physical activities you enjoy:
- Your blood volume goes down, which immediately affects your mobility, strength and endurance.
- You aren’t able to sweat as much, and your core temperature goes up, leading to overheating and fatigue.
- Your body starts to burn the sugar in your muscles faster, so your muscles lose strength and endurance.
How Do You Know if You’re Dehydrated?
How thirsty you are isn’t always a reliable clue to whether you’re drinking enough water before you exercise. Here are helpful ways to check your hydration level:
- Take your pulse. Your pulse rate goes up the more dehydrated you are.
- Feel your muscles. If you're cramping up, you're likely dehydrated.
- Assess your energy levels. Feeling unusually sluggish or tired is a clue you’re not getting enough water.
- Check your skin. If you’re working out but your skin feels dry or clammy, it means you aren’t sweating enough (likely due to dehydration).
- Take a bathroom break. If your urine is clear, light yellow or a bright gold color, you’re good to go. But if your urine is dark, it’s time for a hydration break.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Men: Drink a minimum of 104 ounces of fluids a day.
Women: Drink a minimum of 72 ounces of fluids daily.
On days that you exercise, drink 20 ounces of fluids before the gym, and then sip an 8-ounce glass of water every half hour while you’re working out. This helps replace any water you lose through sweat!