Optimizing Athletic Performance: The Importance of Proper Hydration

Sports Medicine


Whether you’re a professional athlete or an exercise enthusiast, you’ve no doubt heard advice on staying hydrated over and over again. But, just how important is proper hydration?

Very important. Your body needs fluid to keep functioning, and that’s especially true during vigorous workouts. Without refilling the water you lose during exercise, you could experience dehydration symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, and excessive thirst. Heat stroke is also possible. So, let’s review why water is essential for athletic performance and how to get enough water into your body before, during, and after a workout.

Four reasons why you need to drink water

Your body weight is made up of 60% water, with your muscles consisting of 75% water. When you exercise, you shed that fluid through sweat. Not replacing those fluids can negatively impact your performance in several ways. Therefore, maintaining proper fluid levels is vital because it:

Maintains body temperature. When you work out, your body temperature rises. One way to stop your body from overheating is by sweating. If you aren’t producing enough sweat, your body cannot cool down.

Boosts endurance. Water flushes your body with the nutrients it needs to keep going. Without it, your energy lags, your muscles cramp, and you’ll cut your workout short. Want to exercise longer? Drink water.

Keeps you focused. Dehydration also affects your brain, leaving you foggy and unable to concentrate. When you lose focus, your athletic performance will suffer.

Speeds recovery. Are you feeling tired and a bit achy after a workout? That’s normal. Drinking water after exercise helps you recover faster and prepare for the next workout.

How to get enough fluid before, during, and after exercise

How much fluid you need depends on your body weight, the outside temperature, and the intensity of the workout. While everyone is different, these general guidelines should keep you hydrated as you work out:

Pre-workout. Pre-hydration is important to keep your fluid levels in balance as you exercise. Drink between 16 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before your workout, and then eight to 10 ounces within a half-hour prior.

During your workout. To replace lost fluids, drink between seven to 10 ounces for every 20 minutes of exercise.

After your workout. You could shed two quarts or more of fluid after a workout. To gain that fluid back, drink a minimum of eight ounces immediately following your workout.

About those sports drinks

Sports drinks are specially made to quench your thirst and replenish your body with electrolytes, particularly sodium. During a workout, you could lose between 200 and 2,000 milligrams of salt for each liter of sweat. So, look for a sports drink with at least 150 milligrams of sodium in a 12-ounce bottle if you’re seeking hydration that way.

Avoid juices that may be high in sugar and carbohydrates. Caffeinated drinks are not good choices because they may make you urinate more and therefore lose vital fluids.

Be aware that sports drinks may also be high in sugar. While you need carbohydrates for energy production, too much sugar can be bad. Read the label carefully and purchase one with between 6-85 total carbohydrates to keep you energized.

Let us help you optimize your workout

At All Sports Physical Therapy, we’re not only focused on getting you physically in shape for your workouts but your whole body, as well. And that includes proper nutrition and hydration. We take a holistic approach to physical therapy and will map out a plan to optimize your athletic performance in every facet. Contact us today for a consultation.

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