For Physical Activity How Much Fluid

Make a point of drinking fluids at all times during the day—not just after your workout or competition. How much fluid is enough? Here's a schedule that can keep you from becoming dehydrated:

About How Much

(One medium mouthful of fluid = about 1 ounce; 1 cup = 8 ounces.)

When to Drink

2 hours before activity

15 minutes before activity

Every 15 minutes during activity

After activity

Adapted from: Marie Dunford, ual for Professionals (Chicago:

2 cups (and drink plenty with meals)

1 to 2 cups

V2 to 2 cups, enough to minimize body weight loss, without overdrinking

3 cups for each pound of body weight lost ed., Sports Nutrition: A Practice Man-American Dietetic Association, 2006).

you weigh more after exercise, you drank too much during activity; drink less while exercising next time.

  • Check the color of your urine. Dark-colored urine indicates dehydration. Drink more fluids, so your urine is pale and nearly colorless before exercising again.
  • Be especially careful if you exercise intensely in warm, humid weather. Consider how much hotter you feel on humid days. Sweat doesn't evaporate from your skin quickly, so you don't get the cooling benefits. That's why on humid days it's easier to get hyperthermia, or overheated, as you exercise. Hyperthermia can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal!
  • Know the signs of dehydration. Some early signs are flushed skin, fatigue, increased body temperature, and faster breathing and pulse rate. Later signs are dizziness, weakness, and labored breathing with exercise. Replace fluids before symptoms get serious. See "Dehydration: Look for Body Signals!" in chapter 8.
  • Drink, rather than simply pour water over your head. Drinking is the only way to rehydrate and cool your body from the inside out.

For more about fluids and active children, see "Fluids: Caution for Kids" later in this chapter.

Be cautious about overdrinking, especially during intense exercise when your kidneys can't excrete the excess. Called hyponatremia, or abnormally low blood sodium levels, extra water moves instead into body cells, including brain cells. The extra pressure affects vital functions, with potentially fatal outcomes.

Which Fluids?

What should you drink before, during, and after rigorous activity? Try water, fruit juices, sports drinks, or other beverages. For workouts of less than thirty minutes of continuous activity and recreational walking, sports drinks, juices, and water are good choices. For fluid replacers for other sports, read on.

Water: A Good Choice. Water helps lower and normalize your body's core temperature from inside when you're hot, and it moves quickly from your digestive tract to your tissues.

Cold water is a fine choice. Contrary to popular myth, drinking cold water during exercise doesn't cause stomach cramps for most athletes; stomach cramps may be caused by dehydration, not by drinking cold water. For outside activity in cold weather, drink water that's warm or at room temperature to help protect you from hypothermia, or low body temperature. Cool water, preferred by many exercisers, can enhance performance.

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