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When should I drink water in relation to when I work out or compete?
April 9, 2010 3:07 PM   Subscribe

When should I drink water in relation to when I work out or compete? In terms of water drinking in general this snopes article makes a lot of sense to me. I hear so many, different, and contradictory things about how much water to drink and when.

How much water should I drink during my workouts? I work out with a team so only get water when the coach allows us to. We work out 2-5 hours at a time, 4-5 days a week.

My current coach likes us to do a 45min to hour long "warmup" without drinking any water. By the end of that hour we're working pretty hard. I think this has more to do with him thinking that we'll all take breaks and be lazy during the first hour of our workout than anything having to do with proper hydration. I try to drink some water on the way to practice to compensate for his hour long warmups.

I have games on some Saturday evenings. What's the best way for me to be properly hydrated come Saturday 5pm to perform my very best? Some of my teammates say that by Friday it's really too late to properly hydrate. I tend not to drink tons of water in general. Usually a glass or two of water during the day (and several cups of coffee) and a few bottles of water over the course of a workout. Now it's Friday and I'm thinking I should drink extra water today and tomorrow because I have a game. Would I perform better if I had started drinking extra water on Monday? How much water? Does it even matter?
posted by palegirl to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
The rule I use is, "A lot of it often."
posted by cmoj at 3:42 PM on April 9, 2010


What color is your pee? If it is clear, you're getting enough hydration. If it isn't you probably need to drink more water.

I find when I'm well hydrated, I feel better. I don't keep count, but I probably go through 3 liters a day. Specifically during cardio workouts I'll probably knock down 500ml over the course.

Your body will expel unneeded water so if you drink a bunch of water on Friday, you'll just piss it away.
posted by birdherder at 3:53 PM on April 9, 2010


I recommend drinking water when you are thirsty.
posted by indubitable at 4:16 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


A good general rule is: If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. If you were my son I would see to it that you drank about 500ml of water in the hour before practice. Not all at once and not at the last minute. You want the body to absorb the water into the tissues so it is there when you start stressing the body. I would also cut back on the coffee. Caffeine is a diuretic. It makes the water in your system pass through more quickly and exit as urine, rather than as sweat to cool you down. Here are the two issues you need to be concerned about in regards to water and exercise. First, sweat is what cools the body. If your internal organs (especially your brain) get too hot, you don't perform well. Second, you need sufficient fluids in your body to function. When you dehydrate, you actually lessen the volume of blood that is circulating. This can lead to what is called hypovolemia, where you get light-headed and weak. This is also not good.

Drinking extra water today is not of any value as it will pass right through you within 24 hours. If you drink 500ml of water before practice, that will take care of that so-called "warm-up." Then, drink as much water at each break as you feel comfortable with. As birdherder says, the color of your pee is a good indicator of your kidney condition and over-all body condition. You never want to see it turn really dark and you would do well to see it almost clear.
posted by Old Geezer at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2010


There seems to be some crazy old school of coaching that says withholding water will somhow make you stronger and tougher. That's absolute BS and you should come up with a methodical hydration plan to match your activity level and the environment you're in.

Me, I race bicycles. I make sure that I drink at LEAST 24 ounces per hour, even if I feel like I'm not sweating. If it's hotter or if the altitude is higher, I'll consciously make it a point to drink more.

The key here is drinking deliberately. As Old Geezer said, if you wait until you are thirsty you are already dehydrated--that's a physiologic fact of being human.

Oh, and just to say it again: you need a hydration plan. Figure out what you need for your body type and environment. Don't just drink a gallon of water and think you'll be good to go.. There is such a thing a too much water and that can lead to the very deadly condition called hyponatremia.
posted by DavidandConquer at 6:12 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry; too sleepy to dig up the references, but years ago I read about a Harvard study of people on treadmills. Group one was allowed to drink at regular, but widely-spaced, intervals; essentially the equivalent of that "crazy old school of coaching" mentioned above (and implemented in my high school's PE classes). Group two was required to sip from a straw every time a chime sounded: once a minute or so.

The continual-drinkers outperformed the not-until-thirsty drinkers by something huge like 40%.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:43 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a former US Marine, and I went through 2 types of water torture in bootcamp.

One type was making all the recruits fill up their water bottle...twice and chugging it at fast as we could. Once someone threw up, and the tiles on the floor indicated that he projectile vomited 8 feet. It was impressive. But back to point.

The other type was having us eat a breakfast, drink milk, and then right after we'd go to PT (physical training) for 45 minutes, and then end with a 2 mile run. We were dry in that California desert terrain.

Otherwise we ALWAYS had our water bottles with us and were always allowed to drink.

The first type of torture was about drinking water and pissing clear. It was important...and I'm pretty sure everyone learned one way or another.

The second type of torture was to put us in duress to replicate battlefield conditions.


So yeah, lots of coaches, teams, etc do it different ways with water, but the general rule should be that you should be pissing clear. Don't drink so much water that you're bloated and feeling slow...but don't drink so little water that you realize too late that you're dehydrated.

I wish I could post a link to it, but I once read something about how our bodies are slow at registering the need for water; by the time we get thirsty, we're already dehydrated.

What it comes down to is listening to your body and experimenting under a lof of different circumstances. Do it enough and you will know what you need.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:43 PM on April 9, 2010


A good general rule is: If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

My spin instructor says this, but it's a myth. Apparently, the urine color is not really an accurate predictor of dehydration either. Drink water when you are thirsty, and drink a little extra before, during, and after your work out, especially if you're sweating a lot. You should probably also cut back on the coffee on days that you work out, but not because it's a diuretic (this article discusses some of the research that shows caffeine's diuretic effect is mild). You should avoid caffeine right before workouts because it elevates your heart rate, and that can be a bad thing, since the workout itself will also be elevating your heart rate.

Short answer: Don't worry about it. You're not dehydrated.
posted by lexicakes at 8:56 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of good information about silly hydration myths in this Snopes article.
posted by signalnine at 9:07 PM on April 9, 2010


Sorry, I have to vigerously disagree with the above cites debunking the thirst=dehydration "myth"

We're not talking about cubicle dwellers here, we're talking about athletes. We're talking about elevated dehydration rates and if you're exercising you should NEVER feel thirsty. And there is plenty of evidence that hydration levels are under reported--in fact I just searched PubMed for "hydration" and "thirst" and there are so many articles citing the "myth" as fact that I didn't know where to begin in linking to the real science.

I think snopes.com and that 2002 Dartmouth article need to go jump in a lake :)
posted by DavidandConquer at 9:34 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


DavidandConquer has touched on the real point here, but to make it clearer: your body cannot report water needs instantaneously. There's a lag, just like the lag in your body reporting "I'm full now; stop eating".

That lag doesn't matter much if you're typing at your desk.

OTOH, if you're jogging in the July sun...
posted by IAmBroom at 7:02 AM on April 10, 2010


in fact I just searched PubMed for "hydration" and "thirst" and there are so many articles citing the "myth" as fact that I didn't know where to begin in linking to the real science.

I'm sorry, I'm just not seeing that. On the first page of PubMed results for "thirst dehydration" I didn't see any papers that claim that thirst equals dehydration. There were a couple papers on the effects of drinking water on cognition (in children and college athletes), but these didn't indicate that being thirsty means one is dehydrated, only that water deprivation can have negative effects on cognition. There were also a couple of studies looking at the effect of water deprivation on Sodium appetite. And then there was this one, which explains the physiology of thirst in some detail, but does not mention that being thirsty means one is already dehydrated.

I also did a quick Google search and found some resources on physiology, like this, which has a good explanation of how thirst works. Now, I'm not a physiologist, but the way I understand it, thirst is part of the mechanism that regulates fluid intake. It's your body's way of letting you know that you need to drink water. I think this gets confusing because thirst is a symptom of dehydration, but on its own, it does not indicate that you're dehydrated (according to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms include weakness, headaches, dizziness, and very dry mouth). So, thirst isn't an indicator that you are dehydrated; it's an indicator that your body wants water.

What this means for an athlete (or anyone, really) is that if you have unrestricted access to water and can drink when you want, then you're just fine. You don't need to force yourself to drink if you're not thirsty or "stay on top of your thirst."
posted by lexicakes at 7:17 AM on April 10, 2010


"So, thirst isn't an indicator that you are dehydrated; it's an indicator that your body wants water. "

What? There is some fine distinction between dehydration, a technical term and "your body wants water" a massive oversimplification?

Let's put it into the simplest of terms: If you are exercising and you are thirsty you are already depriving your body of necessary fluids. Period. Also, when you do this, you are subject to a lag time during which any water you drink is slowly infusing into your system. Your body is being adversely affected during this lag time.
posted by Old Geezer at 11:45 AM on April 10, 2010


I recommend drinking water when you are thirsty.

I am hardly ever thirsty. I know that might sound weird, but if I only drank water when I was thirsty, I'd be even more dehydrated than I probably already am.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:34 PM on April 10, 2010


There is some fine distinction between dehydration, a technical term and "your body wants water" a massive oversimplification?

I apologize if I phrased that in a confusing way. The point I was trying to make is that there is a difference between being thirsty and being dehydrated. I'm addressing the claim that "If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated."

If you are exercising and you are thirsty you are already depriving your body of necessary fluids. Period.

Can you please provide some sort of reference for this statement? I know the OP didn't ask for it, and I'm not trying to start a huge debate, but I have heard several people make this claim, and no one has given any evidence to back it up. It seems to be something that people have said so much that it is just accepted as fact.
posted by lexicakes at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2010


I don't understand what the thirsty debate is. The sensation of thirst comes from not having enough water. If you're thirsty you need more water. That's what thirst is.
posted by cmoj at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2010


cmoj - The claim is that you need to drink water before you get thirsty. If you wait until you're thirsty, it's too late; you're already dehydrated. This claim is repeated as fact by a lot of fitness experts, and I'm just interested in where the claim comes from, or what the evidence is for the claim.

I am simply saying that when you are thirsty, you should drink water. If you're working out, you should drink more water than you normally would. Basically, drink as much as you want as often as you think is necessary. But you don't need to force yourself to drink more than you want, or more often than you want. As long as you feel OK, you're probably getting the fluid you need.
posted by lexicakes at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2010


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