Fluid Needs

Drinking fluids at regular intervals and eating foods with a high water content (i.e., fresh fruits) are important for maintaining hydration and fluid status during training. See Chapter 2 for more information on fluid balance. Guidelines for drinking fluids during exercise are:

  • Drink 16 oz. (2 cups) of fluid two hours before starting exercise.
  • Drink 3 to 4 oz. (1/2 cup) of fluid every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
  • Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Drink 16 oz. of fluid for every pound of weight lost.
  • Do not rely on thirst as an indicator of fluid needs. Once you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.
  • Drink water when exercising less than 60 minutes. Drink a sports drink (5% to 8% CHO with electrolytes) when exercising longer than 60 minutes.
  • Monitor your urine: urine should be a pale yellow and you should be urinating frequently.

Many beverages can replenish lost fluids, so select a beverage that tastes good, does not cause stomach discomfort, is rapidly absorbed, and contains electrolytes (see Glossary) and CHO (5% to 8%) when performing prolonged or strenuous exercise. Rehydrate with a non-caffeinated, non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage.


Although less common than dehydration, untreated overhydration can be life threatening. It is seen when plain water is used to replace fluid losses during prolonged (greater than 3 hours) strenuous exercise. Remember, both water and electrolytes are lost during sweating, so both need to be replaced in this situation. Prevent overhydration by drinking a beverage that contains electrolytes (such as a sport drink) or by eating a light snack (e.g., oranges) with your water. Between exercise sessions, electrolytes lost through sweating can be easily replaced by eating well-balanced meals and snacks (Chapter 3).

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