Fluids Before Exercise

The goal of drinking before you exercise is to start exercising when your body is in water balance, not in deficit from the previous exercise session. You might need 8 to 12 hours to rehydrate. The prehydration goal is to drink about 2 or 3 milliliters per pound (5 to 7 ml per kg) of body weight at least 4 hours before the exercise task. For a 150-pound (68 kg) athlete, this comes to 300 to 450 milliliters, or about 10 to 15 ounces of fluid. (One ounce is about 30 ml.) By hydrating several hours preexercise, you have time to eliminate the excess before starting the exercise event.

If you drink a beverage with sodium (110 to 275 mg of sodium per 8 oz) or eat a few salty snacks or sodium-containing meals, the sodium will stimulate your thirst so that you drink more; the sodium also helps retain the fluid so it doesn't go in one end and out the other. There's no need to try to hyperhydrate. As I mentioned before, the body can absorb just so much fluid—and you will end up needing to urinate during the event. Overhydrating can also dilute your blood sodium; if you then continue to aggressively drink fluids during exercise, you can increase your risk of developing hyponatremia (see page 155).

If you like a preexercise caffeine boost to enhance your performance, rest assured that caffeine (in moderate doses—12 ounces coffee, or about 200 mg of caffeine) is unlikely to increase your daily urine output or cause you to become dehydrated. Enjoy it, if desired.

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