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The Importance of Staying Hydrated

You have probably heard how important it is to drink water during hard workouts. You probably haven’t heard why or how much water is enough.



Muscles generate heat when they contract during exercise. You produce sweat to cool yourself down. When you sweat out as little as 2% of your weight (3 lbs. for those weighing 150 lbs.) it can negatively affect your performance and metabolism. Drinking insufficient amounts of water is commonly called "dehydration." Dehydration has been known to lead to fatigue, decreased coordination, and muscle cramps. In hot weather, it can also lead to heat exhaustion.

Serious athletes know that staying hydrated can have a noticeable effect on their performance. However, to the average runner, who often just wants to lose weight, the importance may not be clear. When the body uses stored fat for fuel, it creates waste. The excretory system transports this waste into the blood. Sufficient water intake allows the blood to further speed the transport to this waste for elimination. Consuming water during and after exercise also contributes to the process through which generating heat raises the metabolism and burns more calories. Marathoners will often drink 20 to 24 ounces for every pound lost during a run.

Water intake is also required for muscles to contract efficiently. With insufficient water, strength and performance is impaired. The effectiveness of your workouts can also be reduced. A drop in the volume of water in the body of only one per cent can cause a reduction in performance of over ten per cent.

Sufficient water can also help reduce the soreness you feel after an intense workout. Muscular contractions stimulate the muscles to release a chemical called hydroxyproline. This chemical irritates the nerve endings and causes the muscle soreness you feel the next day. You flush this out of your blood with the other waste products, but only if the blood is sufficiently hydrated. Adequate flushing also speeds recovery.

How Much?

We are talking about water. Alcohol does not have the same effect! In fact, alcohol dehydrates you by causing you to excrete more water than you would have had if you had not drunk the alcohol. Sometimes competitive runners will drink commercial products like Gatorade with the idea that they need to replenish electrolytes, sodium, and other things excreted through their sweat. This is not necessary for the casual exerciser so neither are the drinks.

Experts suggest that serious runners drink six to eight ounces every twenty minutes during a workout. During longer workouts or running in hot weather, more may be necessary, based on how much you sweat. This amount varies greatly between people, with some sweating as little as a quart per hour and others as much as four quarts per hour. It is easy to underestimate this amount because small amounts evaporate quickly when they contact the air.

Running for a half hour run on a treadmill in a room with a comfortable temperature probably does not require you to carefully monitor fluid intake during your workout. However, a drink afterwards is always a good idea. The old saying is true: Drink before you get thirsty.



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