You’ve bought the expensive running or cycling shoes, the reflective running gear or reflective cycling vest and that highly expensive bike and you are ready to start your road to health. What many people forget when beginning an exercise programme is the importance of remaining hydrated. Yes, you may have purchased that fancy hydration system or a water filter bottle, but you have to remember to actually drink from them!
It is important to remember that if you have consumed tea, coffee, alcohol or carbonated drinks within the previous 12 hours, you may be beginning with a water deficit. So ensure that you drink water before, during and after exercise. There are no hard and fast rules as to how much you should drink but the American Council of Fitness suggests that you drink 600mls (20 ounces) of water two to three hours before you exercise. If you are dehydrated before you begin, then your core temperature will rise quickly and put an unnecessary strain on your heart.
The ACF also recommend that you drink 250mls (8 ounces) 20 to 30 minutes before you begin to exercise or during your warm up. While you are exercising, it is recommended that you drink 200 to 300mls (7 to 10 ounces) every 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the intensity of the exercise. Follow this with 250mls (8 ounces) of water within 30 minutes of completing your exercise programme.
Obviously, the amount of fluid needed varies considerably from person to person and the outside temperature is also an influence. Some people can lose up to a litre of fluid an hour. Although water is the best drink for preventing dehydration, you might want to consider a sports drink if you are exercising intensely for over an hour. Read the label carefully to avoid taking in too much caffeine, salt and sugar. Choose a low calorie electrolyte replacement drink to help restore your potassium and sodium levels.
Signs of dehydration include heart palpitations, lightheadedness, dry mouth and nausea. In severe cases, there may be mental confusion and the subject may even lose consciousness. If this occurs, then obviously seek medical help.
Everyone is different, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and tell him/her about your exercise programme and ask how much fluid he/she thinks is right for you. Remember, drinking little and often is the healthy approach to staying hydrated and getting the best out of your fitness programme.