Hydration and exercise: how to stay well hydrated?
July 4, 2022 - By Alicia Vigeant
We often hear that it is important to stay hydrated, especially when you are physically active. But why hydration is so important? And how do you stay well hydrated? The answers to these questions and more will be answered here! Let’s start with the most basic of all: water.
Why does my body need water?
Water is essential for all body functions. Every day, the body loses water through urine, sweat, breathing and digestion. Proper hydration throughout the day allows the body to compensate for these losses and function at optimal capacity.
How do I know if I am drinking enough?
On average, you should drink a total of 2 to 3 liters of fluid per day, which includes all liquids (water, juice, coffee, etc.). However, the amount of liquids needed depends on several things, including physical activity, and can vary from day to day. How do you know if you are drinking enough? A good indicator is the color of the urine (strange, but true!): we aim for a light-yellow urine, almost colorless, for optimal hydration.
Total intake of 2 and 3 liters of liquid
|Time of day||Beverage||Quantity|
|Breakfast||Coffee||1 cup (250 ml)||1 cup (250 ml)|
|Milk or milk substitute||1 glass (250 ml)||1 glass (250 ml)|
|Morning||Water||1 glass (250 ml)||2.5 glasses (625 ml)|
|Lunch||Water||1 glass (250 ml)||1 glass (250 ml)|
|Vegetable or fruit juice||1 box (200 ml)||1 box (200 ml)|
|Afternoon||Water||1 glass (250 ml)||2.5 glasses (625 ml)|
|Dinner||Water||1 glass (250 ml)||1 glass (250 ml)|
|Evening||Herbal Tea||1 cup (250 ml)||1 cup (250 ml)|
|Water||1 glass (250 ml)|
How to stay hydrated to optimize your workout?
Dehydration can have a negative effect on athletic performance; it can lead to headaches and reduced energy levels and endurance.
Insufficient hydration in the hours leading up to an activity can affect performance. It is therefore important to have an optimal fluid level throughout the day, not just during physical activity. You can then drink small amounts throughout the activity to compensate for what is lost through perspiration.
Okay, I get that it’s important to drink, but what do I drink?
When the body produces sweat, we lose water, but electrolytes as well. Electro…what? Electrolytes are minerals that are essential to the body’s water balance. They include salt, chlorine and potassium. A lack of electrolytes can lead to dehydration, even if you drink a lot of water.
For an activity that lasts an hour or less (such as a workout at the gym), water is more than enough. The loss of electrolytes through sweat is small enough to be managed by the body. However, when the activity lasts longer than an hour, especially in hot weather, sports drinks become an interesting option to replenish electrolytes and avoid dehydration. Also, the sugar that these drinks contain is our body’s main source of energy, so they provide fuel during activity, which delays the effects of fatigue. So don’t hesitate to use sports drinks for your long bike rides, runs or hikes this summer.
Want to optimize your hydration but don’t know where to start? Book an appointment with one of our nutritionists!
- Gouvernement du Québec. (May 18, 2021). « Water, the drink of choice to stay hydrated », on Gouvernement du Québec. Website link
- Lewis III, James L. (october 2021). « Overview of Electrolytes », on Merck Manual. Website link
- Dietary Reference Intakes, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, paper version, 2006
- Government of Canada. (June 29, 2006). « Dietary Reference Intakes », on Health Canada. Website link
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement.
- NHS Inform (2022). « Hydration », on Scotland’s national health. Website link
 Dietary Reference Intakes, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, paper version, 2006 and Government of Canada. (June 29, 2006). « Dietary Reference Intakes », on Health Canada. Website link
Hydration and exercise: how to stay well hydrated? is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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