It’s one thing to lace up your sneakers, get out there, and slam a workout. But if you’re not fueling right, you could be missing out on potential gains and optimal performance. A huge piece of the puzzle to a better body? Hydration, hydration, hydration. It’s easy to go throughout your day and neglect hitting the H20, but there are loads of reasons you should be putting it on your essential to-do list.
Appropriate hydration can help you feel satiated and even boost metabolism, and in one study, researchers found that participants who drink water before a meal may lose weight faster than those who did not. If weight loss is your goal, that process can certainly be helped by upping your water intake. It also helps fight fatigue, can improve your overall mood, and protect joints and cartilage in the body (among so many other things).
“Your body depends on water to survive,” says Joelle Malinowski, RD, CDE, CDN. “Every cell, tissue, and organ your body needs water to work properly. It keeps your energy levels high and assists with overall good health. And in athletes specifically, it’s critical for maintenance in exercise performance and slowing the rise of heart rate as the work increases.”
So how much do you need? And what should you be drinking?
Before we even take exercise into consideration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests women drink 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water—from all beverages and foods—each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily). However, the right amount of hydration for each person can vary greatly, thanks to considerations like age, gender, and even where they live. (Anyone living at high altitude is prone to dehydration.)
Now, let’s talk exercise: the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you drink about 500 ml of fluid—which is roughly 17 ounces—two hours before exercise. If you’re a wake-up-and-grind grind kind of guy, do the best you can to get in some sips before hitting the ground running. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, and 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.
But is water king? Not always. “Sport beverages and powders can be great before and during exercise, since the amount of carbohydrate inside can provide energy, help increase work output, and maintain hydration levels during activity,” says Malinowski. But don’t get sport drink happy, she cautions. Depending on what activity and how hard you’re working, you may not need that extra oomph.
“Someone doing a long run is going to have different hydration and fueling needs than someone who is doing a 20-minute HIIT workout,” she says. “Someone doing a quick workout may not need the extra calories, sodium, and carbs."
They also may need to be wary of caffeine amounts, commonly found in sport supplements. Despite giving users a natural boost, it it also dehydrating. (Revere's pre-workout comes with varying levels of caffeine so that athletes can choose the blend that works for them.) When in doubt, feel it out. Find what works for you based on the different types of activities and challenges you're tackling on the regular.
A word to the wise: just like with exercise, make sure not to overdo it with water. One 2015 study found that some athletes are so concerned about dehydration that they consume too much water during exercise. And that’s just as dangerous as being dehydrated.
And if there's no water around? Foods can be hydrating, too. “A lot of the fruits and vegetables contain water,” says Malinowski. “Everything from tomatoes and broccoli to watermelon, iceberg lettuce, celery, and berries. If you can’t remember to drink it, you can get it in just by eating.”