While some people simply use a water break as an excuse to stop and catch their breath during a workout, it’s much more important than that. In fact, some experts even call water “the most overlooked nutrient for athletes.” At any rate, water is an important component of any fitness plan that not only offers a number of benefits but also reduces several risks. Understanding the role of water in exercise will help amateurs and professionals alike get the most out of their workouts (and their water breaks).
Primary Benefits of Water During Exercise
Most people understand that water is an important component of their overall health and fitness regimen; however, most also underestimate how much water they need to be drinking. Water is literally the substance of life and makes up roughly 60 percent of the human body. With that, it’s particularly important to make sure one is drinking enough while exercising, especially if the exercise is vigorous. Replenishing water lost during exercise serves to:
- Reduce fatigue. – Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. In fact, even a small drop in the level of water in the body can have a significant impact. So it is important to constantly replenish one’s store of water, particularly during vigorous exercise.
- Maintain metabolic function. – Water is an important component that supports metabolism in the body. During exercise, it helps transport the carbohydrates and proteins that the body needs for consistent energy throughout the bloodstream. If the body loses too much water, metabolic function will also plummet.
- Promote circulation. – Water helps maintain circulation in the body. The level of oxygen in the bloodstream remains more stable when the system is well-hydrated, so it’s important to maintain one’s intake of water during exercise. Additionally, when the body has an adequate store of oxygen, it will more readily burn fat, increasing one’s energy levels.
- Eliminate toxins. – Water also functions to remove the toxins from the body, and especially in the digestive tract. Restoring the water lost during exercise is particularly important to reduce an interruption in the elimination of toxins from the body.
- Regulate temperature. – Water serves to help maintain the body’s temperature. Many individuals rely on sports drinks during, but water actually works best for hydrating the body during moderate exercise.
Risks of Water Loss
The body is designed to naturally perspire to reduce its temperature gradually during exertion. This process means that during exercise, the body loses water through a natural process. Depending on the intensity of the workout, one can lose as many as several liters of water during even just a one-hour period of exercise. So it is important that fitness enthusiasts know how to effectively replenish the lost water during exercise. Otherwise, they will suffer the consequences of dehydration.
Not only that, but dehydration can also lead to severe impairments in one’s performance, both during and after exercise. If an individual fails to consider his or her hydration needs related to exercise, it can lead to:
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle fatigue
- Heat illness
- Inability to regulate body temperature
- Reduced performance
While individuals have different hydration needs depending on body size and several other factors, the American College of Sports Medicine outlines a general set of guidelines that apply to most individuals. Prior to working out, most individuals should drink 17 to 20 ounces roughly 2 to 3 hours before the workout. Then right before the workout, the individual should consume another 8 ounces of water roughly 20 to 30 minutes before the workout. During the workout, individuals should aim for approximately 7 to 10 ounces of water for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise. Following the workout, individuals should cool down with 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes of the workout. A water bottle with measurements right on it make tracking easier and more efficient.
Considerations with Sports Drinks
Many individuals want to turn to sports drinks rather than water during a workout. In most cases, water is the best option. However, if a workout lasts more than 60 minutes, the body loses more than just water. In these cases, individuals need to effectively replenish sodium and potassium as well. Without it, issues such as confusion, muscle cramps, and potentially even water intoxication can occur. Sports drinks are not necessary for workouts with a duration of 60 minutes or less; however, for activities such as long-distance running or extended sports games, an electrolyte based drink is a good option anywhere beyond an hour of exercise.
Water not only plays a key role in the body, but it also enhances physical performance. If functions to regulate body temperature, improve circulation, and maintain metabolic function. For those reasons, it is especially important to maintain an adequate intake of water before, during, and after exercise.by