This article will explain the best ways to rehydrate after a sweaty session.
Water is the most important nutrient in the body but often one which gets forgotten about. After a workout, we’re often too focused on packing in the protein that we forget to re-hydrate properly. This can leave us feeling lethargic and unproductive for the rest of the day. So what exactly does water do you may ask? Water acts as a carrier which transports micro nutrients around the body and waste products to the kidneys for excretion, it enables homoeostasis (ensuring the body’s processes are maintained within their stable ranges) and serves as a shock absorber between bones and joints.
The amount of water required on a daily basis may vary depending on exercise, illness, climate and diet. Ensuring adequate water intake is crucial in preventing dehydration, which can cause dry mouth, headache, fatigue and in severe situations confusion, reduced brain functioning and irritability. We lose water through a variety of different means including urine and faeces, sweat and respiration. These losses are replaced through increasing our water intake, food intake and we produce it via our metabolism.
Adequate water intake is essential for the maintenance of our body’s daily physiological functions and optimising our performance. However, many of us forget to re-hydrate after exercising. This can cause consequent delays in post-exercise muscle recovery. We’ll touch on the rate of drinking, the amount of water you should drink and the fluid composition.
1. How quickly should you rehydrate?
Research has suggested that re-hydrating is most effective when you consume the fluid over a prolonged period of time. One study showed those participants who staggered their fluid intake over 4 hours produced considerably less urine than those who consumed it all in one hour. This suggests that hydration is better achieved when fluid is consumed over a prolonged period of time. I recommend that you drink little and often for the few hours following your workout.
2. How much should you drink?
Research suggests that replacing your sweat losses is not enough, after exercise your body continues to sweat to cool yourself down, consequently you’ll be losing more water. As a result you should drink 150% of what you’ve lost. In reality, this is impractical as you don’t collect your sweat between burpees to measure it! However, be sensible and cautious that you’re drinking enough in order to stay hydrated throughout the day.
3. What should you drink?
When you sweat you lose water and nutrients, if you don’t replace them properly you can cause electrolyte imbalances. The key nutrients to replace are sodium and potassium. These nutrients play roles in muscle and nerve conduction and the regulation of blood pressure, low sodium can cause hyponatremia which can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, confusion and low blood pressure. Some people will find it best to add a touch of salt to their water (you really don’t need much, you probably won’t even be able to taste it), or drinks such as coconut water, birch water and maple water contain sodium and potassium. When re-hydrating after a workout ensure you’re drinking enough fluid containing sodium and potassium over a few hours in order to optimise your recovery and enable your body to continue with its daily functions.
Jéquier, E., & Constant, F. (2010). Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European journal of clinical nutrition, 64 (2), 115-123
Jones, E. J., Bishop, P. A., Green, J. M., & Richardson, M. T. (2010). Effects of metered versus bolus water consumption on urine production and rehydration. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 20(2), 139-144.
Shirreffs, S. M., & Maughan, R. J. (2000). Rehydration and recovery of fluid balance after exercise. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 28(1), 27-32