Updated: Jul 8, 2022
You know I am a huge advocate for folks to get a body moving—stretch, shimmy, shake, walk, and run or jump; just do something. A new exercise program requires commitment and acknowledging that a slow start is better than no start as you gradually build up your stamina and your body adjusts to exercising more vigorously.
One of the most important things to remember when launching an exercise activity is to feed and water your body adequately. Though both food and water are important, water and staying hydrated is the more important of the two.
Water is an essential nutrient that makes up half the body weight. It’s the transportation system for all of the body functions; it helps transport nutrients for energy and health; it lubricates the joints and protects the brain, eyes and spinal cord. It also moves food through your intestinal tract, washes out waste products, and prevents constipation.
Last but not least, water regulates the body temperature. If you are not hydrated, you may be fatigued, prone to muscle cramps, and dizziness which can easily lead to more serious symptoms of poor hydration.
You can gauge whether you are adequately hydrated from the color of your urine. The color of the first morning urine after you wake up is an indicator of hydration. Straw or lemonade colored urine is your goal, indicating appropriate hydration. If the urine is dark yellow or the color of apple juice, that is a sign of dehydration.
The amount of water needed to stay well hydrated can be affected by the temperature, humidity, sweat rate and intensity of exercise. Whether you’re a week-end warrior or high performances athlete, it is critical that you’re adequately hydrated before during and after exercise. The American Council on Fitness suggests the following guidelines for moderate to high intensity exercise:
Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising.
Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up.
Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise.
As the temperature rises, the amount of water required to stay hydrated increases. If you can, adjust your exercise schedule to the coolest part of the day. The following is a guideline indicating water loss during exercise:
Water Loss Exercise
8 ounces One hour of Weight Training
10 ounces 45 minutes of Swimming
16 ounces One Softball Game
24 ounces Five-mile run
24 ounces 45 minutes of full court basketball
33 ounces 60 minutes of bicycling
Also, as the intensity of exercise increases, you need to drink more and may want to switch to a commercial or homemade sports drink. The following is a low-cost alternative to commercial sports drinks:
Homemade Sports Drink
Yield: 1 quart (4 - 8-ounce servings)
4 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup boiling water
3 3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup orange juice
Dissolve the sugar and salt in hot water.
Add remaining water and juice.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Nutritional Information per Serving (8 ounces): 60 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 150 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium.
Staying hydrated is critical even when you are not exercising. Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day and don’t wait until you feel thirsty. When you recognize that you are thirsty, that is a red flag that you are dehydrated. In addition to thirst, symptoms of dehydration include:
dry lips and mouth
a small amount of saliva
a small amount of urine
dark yellow urine
The following are warning signs that need immediate medical attention:
rapid strong pulse
It is important to stay hydrated for good health and fitness. By keeping these tips top-of-mind, you’ll find it easier to navigate toward a healthy lifestyle.
Take Away: Don’t shortchange the benefits of water. Water and fluids are essential nutrients for life.
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