Drinking water before, during, and after any physical activity that causes the body to sweat ÑÊbe it light exercise, running a marathon, or even working in your front yard on a hot summer day ÑÊis crucial for your health.
It’s become a cliche to say a person should drink eight glasses of water a day. The Mayo Clinic actually recommends more (for both men and women). And yet, many people are unaware that other drinks, including fitness water and sports drinks that are marketed to athletes and people who exercise regularly, do not actually replace the amount water a body loses as the result of sweating. Because the human body can lose up to half a gallon of water in extreme heat or while exercising, plain old ordinary water will always be the best solution for hydration.
What Does This All Mean?
Take a look at the avatar in our infographic. She’s sweaty but alert, probably because she was smart enough to drink a couple glasses of water before she started her run and made sure to stop at a public water fountain or two during her jog. The little white dots we’ve magnified represent droplets of sweat, which pull heat from the skin after evaporating. As you exercise, blood vessels pull the heat that you are creating from your muscles and circulate it to your skin. As the excess heat disappears, your blood cools down and in turn cools down your body.
But sweating without rehydrating will cause the body’s blood volume and blood pressure to decrease and the heart to race to compensate. Overheating and dehydration as a result of the loss of water through sweating can overcome a person before they know what’s hitting them.
Some symptoms of dehydration include:
- Headache, lightheadedness
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth and lips
- Extreme thirst
During an hour of physical exercise, the average person will sweat 1.4 liters. (Eight glasses of water equals approximately 1.9 liters.) Drinking water before, during, and after exercise, as well as consuming carbohydrates and electrolytes like sodium and potassium, will rehydrate the body and bring it back into balance.
What To Drink
Several drink products are marketed as alternatives to water and tastier sources of refreshment, energy, and hydration. However, very few of these drinks are as healthy as they may purport to be. Sports drinks are often high in calories and are about half as effective as water in rehydrating your body. Fitness waters have fewer calories than a typical sports drink, but the nutrients is these drinks are meant to supplement your diet, not replace what you lose when you sweat. And aside from tasting good and giving you a rush from sugar, caffeine, and a cocktail of chemicals, soft drinks are just bad for your body, including your teeth, bones, and stomach. Have a Coke and a smile after you’re fully rehydrated.