Hydrate: Before, During & After Back »

Written collaboratively by Nikki Prosch, Tara Shafrath, and Hope Kleine.


Staying properly hydrated is a very important aspect to a healthy diet, but is often underplayed as a critical component in nutrition. Athletes, non-athletes, children, adolescents and adults all need to stay properly hydrated to keep the body functioning optimally. One great mechanism to receive adequate intakes of fluids is through consumption of the wonderful nutrient, water.

Importance of Hydration

About 2/3 of the human body is made up of water, and without this nutrient a person couldn’t survive more than a few days! The body needs water to help with digestion, provide moisture to skin and other tissues, regulate blood circulation and body temperatures, remove toxins from the body, and to transport nutrients and oxygen to the cells throughout the body. Water also helps protect organ and tissues in the body, is great for weight management, and most importantly, water keeps the body functioning efficiently and easily each day.

Nearly all foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain water. So along with regularly consuming fluids, food can also play a role in keeping the body hydrated. An individual’s water needs depend on their activity level, humidity and temperature in environment, health status and the foods you eat. Generally, adults need 1.0-1.5 milliliters of water for each calorie spent in the day. So for example, if you expend 2,000 calories each day, you should be drinking 2-3 liters of fluids (or about 8 to 12 cups). Point of reference: an average plastic water bottle is about 16.9 ounces, or 2.1 cups.

Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration is the net loss of water and fluids from the body, and is often experienced with inadequate intake of fluids. Some common signs of dehydration include feeling of thirst, fatigue, weakness, dry mouth, dizziness and headache. The body experiences daily water losses from urine, sweat, feces and respiration. Additionally, an active individual experiences a higher loss of water than an inactive individual. One may also experience increased water loss in the heat. For any type of workout, it is important to drink fluids before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can have a negative effect on muscular work capacity, and thus affect performance when exercising. Dehydration can also increase the risk for heat-related illnesses.

Tips to Stay Hydrated

Here are some hydration guidelines to follow when exercising:

  • 2-3 hours prior to exercise, drink 17-20 ounces of water.
  • 20-30 minutes prior to exercise or during your warm-up, drink 8 ounces of fluid.
  • During exercise, drink 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes.
  • 30 minutes post-exercise, drink 8 ounces of fluid.
  • Drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

For more information about staying properly hydrated, review this Fit Facts: Healthy Hydration handout.

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