When you realize that your muscles are 79% water, your heart is 73% water and your lungs are 83% water, it's no surprise that staying hydrated is key for athletic performance. And no matter if you’re a casual weekend warrior or a professional athlete, drinking enough water has measurable, visible impacts on your metabolism, strength and flexibility, and exercise results.
Multiple studies have shown that:
- Even a slight amount of dehydration can zap your strength by 2%, with more and more strength loss the more dehydrated you are.
- Staying hydrated boosts your metabolism and how much fat you burn.
- Dehydration makes your muscles’ fascia layers more “sticky,” reducing your flexibility. Dehydration can also affect the fluids in your joints, impacting joint mobility.
With hydration being so key to athletic performance and overall health and wellbeing, it begs the question: How much water and fluids should you be drinking every day if you exercise regularly?
The Verdict on Healthy Hydration
Forget the old standard that says to drink eight glasses of water daily. While that’s a fine, basic goal for most people, your approach to fluid intake needs to take into account the fact that you’re hitting it hard in the gym.
Your personal hydration equation involves both the AMOUNT of water you drink, as well as the TIMING of when you drink it.
For maximum performance, no matter the workout or the type of exercise you’re doing, follow these simple guidelines:
- Drink 20 ounces of water two hours before you arrive at the gym.
- Stay hydrated throughout your workout, sipping 7-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes while you’re exercising.
- Refuel after your workout. Compare your body weight post-exercise with your pre-workout body weight. This tells you how much fluids you lost via sweat. Aim to drink 16 ounces of water for every pound that you lost.
Outside of the gym, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) currently recommends that women drink 72+ ounces of fluids daily, and men should aim for 104+ ounces of fluids. One easy way to tell if you’re getting enough water: Check the toilet. If your urine is pale or clear, you’re hydrated!
Finally, don’t forget that water isn’t your only option. From supplement-enhanced exercise drinks that boost performance, to natural alternatives like juice (for example, research shows beet juice can improve athletic endurance when you’re doing a cardio workout), the goal is to stay hydrated with healthy fluids. Exactly what those healthy fluids are is up to you!