Stay hydrated. As you read this, you may not realize it, but you’re probably dehydrated.
Researchers from around the world report that an athlete is likely dehydrated before even beginning their exercise. According to the research discussed below, that’s true whether you’re a professional, amateur, or recreational athlete. It may even be true even if you’re on a pre-exercise hydration program.
Being dehydrated, however, will negatively impact your performance. For instance, you will have a more difficult time concentrating. Also, you will have a more difficult time motivating yourself. Plus, you will not run as fast of a time or play as many minutes at your best.
Furthermore, you also have to account for how dehydration impacts you between performances. Are you crankier than usual? Do you have problems focusing on work or school? Do you have headaches or feel sluggish around the house?
However, if the reports described below are accurate, which we have no doubt they are, athletes must not realize the impact dehydration has on their performance. Otherwise, they’d show up hydrated.
If athletes don’t know they’re dehydrated, what does that mean about non-athletes?
Sure, non-athletes maybe don’t sweat as much, but they’re regularly subjected to other dehydrating activities, like air travel, coffee, and hot climates.
Could non-athletes also benefit from proper hydration? Why not? It could help them, too, with improving concentration, mood, and overall performance (e.g., performing well at work, making better decisions with friends and family, sleeping better at night).
This article examines some recently published research reports on athletes and dehydration. Also, this article provides a list of things you can do to stay hydrated. Those things are:
- Hydrate immediately upon waking up in the morning
- Drink pedialyte instead of water, soda, and other drinks
- Keep a hydrating drink nearby throughout the day
- Drink a variety of flavors and types of drinks
- Eat foods that are high in water content
- Rehydrate after every run
- Hydrate after flying, after drinking coffee, and after drinking alcohol
Read below for more information about these tips and how to incorporate them into your daily routine.
Stay hydrated. Athletes of all kinds all around the world are exercising while dehydrated.
In 2019, researchers from the University of Connecticut and University of North Carolina at Greensboro published a paper in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. It is entitled “Factors influencing hydration status during a National Collegiate Athletics Association division 1 soccer preseason.” They “investigate[d] the roles that training load and environmental conditions have on fluid balance during a collegiate men’s soccer preseason.”
In it, the researchers found the players almost always showed up dehydrated. True, even in spite of a team effort to ensure proper hydration throughout preseason:
- “While the team-based hydration strategy during preseason was successful in minimizing fluid losses during activity, participants arrived hypohydrated 80% of the time. . .”
Therefore, even though the team had a hydration strategy in place, the athletes nonetheless began their training already dehydrated.
Furthermore, in 2008, researchers from the United Kingdom published a paper in Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. It is entitled Development of Individual Hydration Strategies for Athletes. In it, they say:
- “Available evidence suggests that many athletes begin exercise already dehydrated to some degree . . .”
So, the researchers in the UK agree with those mentioned herein from the U.S. Athletes are dehydrated to some degree before even beginning their game or training.
Moreover, those same UK researchers also encourages athletes to:
- begin exercise well hydrated
- consume sufficient amounts of appropriate fluids during exercise to limit water and salt deficits
Therefore, although many athletes are beginning their games and trainings in a dehydrated state, the researchers encourage athletes to come hydrated and stay hydrated.
That makes sense, but easier said than done, right?
In 2019, researchers in Canada published a paper in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. It is entitled “Sweat Loss and Hydration Habits of Female Olympic, Varsity and Recreational Ice Hockey Players.”
In it, they report the results of a study that “measured sweat losses, voluntary fluid intake, sodium balance, and carbohydrate intake of female ice hockey players during on-ice practices at the Olympic, varsity, and recreational levels.”
They wrote that professional and amateur athletes at risk of dehydration and its perils.
Also, recreational athletes should have even greater concern.
Indeed, they expressed a “greater concern for recreational athletes.” According to the authors, recreational athletes “arrived at the arena in a mildly dehydrated state” and didn’t correct that before exercise.
Regardless, however, of your athletic status, a good chance exists that you’re dehydrated at least some of the time before you exercise. Those authors report the follow percentages of players arriving to practice mildly dehydrated:
- Olympic: 35%
- Varsity: 50%
- Recreational teams : 80%
Also, for one more example, in 2018, researchers in Malaysia published a paper in a journal called Physical Education for Students. It is entitled “Association between hydration status, hydration knowledge and fluid consumption during training among soccer players.” In it, the researchers caution of a need “to increase awareness of pre training hydration status among the participants.”
Although this article is not an exhaustive review of the literature, it at the very least proves that some concern exists over the pre-exercise hydration status of athletes.
Not only are you likely dehydrated before you exercise, your exercise is going to dehydrate you even more!
In 2019, researchers from the University of Connecticut, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Stirling, and University of St. Andrews published a report. It’s published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. It is entitled “Fluid Needs for Training, Competition, and Recovery in Track-and-Field Athletes.” In that report, they concluded that athletes who run longer durations and engage in continuous activities are at a high risk of suffering from risks of impairment in training or performance. Indeed, quoting the researchers:
- “Track and Field events carry a ‘high’ risk, typically in the longer duration and continuous activities, such as endurance events.”
The researchers say that endurance athletes should place great attention on planning a customized hydration strategy to optimize training and performance outcomes.
Similarly, the University of Connecticut and University of North Carolina at Greensboro mentioned above who published a paper in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport agreed. They concluded that longer running distance equals more dehydration:
- “Total distance covered was the best predictor for the extent of body water losses during a collegiate preseason.”
Dehydration will impair your performance and can cause health risks, so be sure to hydrate before, during, and after exercise.
It’s no secret that dehydration is bad for you. However, if many athletes are showing up to games and trainings dehydrated, they must not realize the impact on their performance. But, according to the research below, dehydration can significantly impair performance.
In 2019, the researchers mentioned above from the University of Connecticut, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Stirling, and University of St. Andrews wrote that:
- “Dehydration impairs performance in most events, and athletes should be well hydrated before exercise.”
The researchers backed that up with reference to a review of over 30 studies from 1961 to 2012. Those 34 studies investigated the impact dehydration has on endurance exercise. Indeed, the researchers reviewing those studies confirm that many endurance athletes suffer from impaired performance because of dehydration:
“Of the 60 total performance observations, 41 (68%) showed a statistically significantly impairment in performance when dehydrated . . .”
“These findings are more impressive still when one considers that most studies are undertaken with the minimal number of test volunteers necessary to find statistical significance.”(internal citations omitted)
The researchers also noted the negative impact dehydration has on an endurance runner’s concentration and motivation:
“potential effects of dehydration on brain function could impact track-and-field athlete performance by interfering with one or more aspects of concentration or motivation”
“dehydration has a negative effect on mood state through one or more alterations in perceived tiredness, alertness, confusion, fatigue, anger, or depression”
“When dehydration is ≥2% body mass, it can also produce unpleasant and distractive symptoms, such as dry mouth, thirst, and headache.”(internal citations omitted)
Other researchers support this conclusion that dehydration impairs athletic and mental performance.
In 2019, the researchers in Canada mentioned above who published a paper in the International Journal of Sports Medicine wrote that sweat loss of 1.5-2% of body may:
“can negatively impact athletic and cognitive performance in numerous intermittent team sports for both male and female athletes”(internal citations omitted).
One final example. In 2002, researchers from Iowa Wrestling Research and University of Wisconsin’s Department of Nutritional Sciences published a paper in Sport Medicine. It is entitled Hydration Testing of Athletes. In it, they warn that:
“Dehydration not only reduces athletic performance, but also places athletes at risk of health problems and even death.”
If you’re an athlete worried about your dehydration status, it’s not all doom and gloom, however.
According to those same researchers, athletes can monitor hydration status to avoid the negative consequences of dehydration.
“For athletes, monitoring hydration has significant value in maximising performance during training and competition.”
“It also offers medical personnel the opportunity to reduce health risks in situations where athletes engage in intentional weight loss.”
“Simple non-invasive techniques, including weight monitoring and urine tests, can provide useful information.”
How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
It may be no surprise to you, but many athletes grossly underestimate how much they actually sweat during exercise.
In 2019, researchers from Central Washington University published a paper in the International Journal of Exercise Science. It is called “Hydration Status and Perception of Fluid Loss in Male and Female University Rugby Union Players.” In it, they explained that “the purpose of this study was to observe the hydration status and sweat loss estimations of male and female university rugby union players over three consecutive training sessions.”
The researchers found that both males and females significantly underestimated how much they sweat.
- “Males significantly underestimated sweat loss by ~81%  after session one and improved estimations to ~36% after session three, however still significantly underestimated .”
- “Females also significantly underestimated sweat loss by ~64% on day one , and also improved estimations to ~60% on day three, however, still significantly underestimated .”
The researchers found that participants, through education, can improve their understanding of how much they sweat. Accordingly, they will become better at staying properly hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
To help confirm whether or not you are dehydrated, you can look to a paper mentioned above. Specifically, in 2019, the researchers from the University of Connecticut, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Stirling, and University of St. Andrews who published a report list the following as potential signs of dehydration:
- daily weight loss exceeding 1 to 2 lbs,
- a small volume of dark colored urine (apple juice or darker), and
- noticeable feeling of thirst
If you experience two or more of these symptoms, you are likely dehydrated. If you have all three symptoms, you are even more likely dehydrated.
The researchers also wrote that losing 2% or more of body mass can cause runners to exhaust sooner or reduce sustained exercise intensity. This is especially true when training in warmer temperatures.
Oh no, what do I do?
Don’t sweat it. Plenty of athletes and non-athletes find effective and easy ways to stay hydrated. Skip to the tips below to see what you can start doing right now. Or keep reading to hear more about what these researchers have to say.
The researchers mentioned above who published a report in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism say to stay hydrated by eating hydrating foods and drinking hydrating beverages between training sessions.
“optimal rehydration may best be sustained between training days by behaviorally-driven ingestion of solid food and water.”(internal citations omitted)
Also, the researchers mentioned above from the University of Connecticut, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Stirling, and University of St. Andrews wrote that:
- “Sufficient fluid should be consumed during exercise to limit dehydration to less than about 2% of body mass. . . .”
- “Sodium should be included when sweat losses are high, especially if exercise lasts more than about 2 h.”
- “Athletes should not drink so much that they gain weight during exercise.”
- “During recovery from exercise, rehydration should include replacement of both water and salts lost in sweat.”
Therefore, your hydration strategy should focus on what you do between workouts as much as during.
Even if you can’t totally rehydrate, partial rehydration can significantly enhance performance. In 2019, the researchers mentioned above who published a report in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism wrote that:
“In addition, partial rehydration has been shown to dramatically enhance performance and physiological function during running in the heat, and the effect is exacerbated if the exercise is intense. ”(internal citations omitted)
Whether you are an athlete or not, if you want to perform at a high level for many years to come, it is important that you take your hydration status seriously.
Without proper hydration, your athletic and cognitive performance will suffer.
Staying properly hydrated will help you feel good physically, think more clearly, sleep better, and be in better moods. Follow these tips to help stay hydrated.
Stay hydrated: Tips Explained
Stay hydrated Tip 1: Hydrate immediately upon waking up in the morning
One key to staying hydrated before and after runs is to drink a large glass of water when you wake up. Make it a habit before you shower and otherwise get ready for the day.
Drinking water when you wake up will help stimulate your metabolism and will replace water you lost while sleeping. You may not realize it, but while you sleep, you lose water through your skin (whether you’re excessively sweating or not) and by exhaling water vapor as you breath.
To replace that water, you should drink 12-20 oz of water when you wake up. It’ll hydrate you, flush out toxins that build up while you sleep, and give you some extra mental and physical energy.
You may even find that it boosts all your morning experiences, like your cup of coffee, morning run, or exchanges with family and friends. Try drinking water first thing in the morning. Also, try drinking pedialyte instead of water when you wake up. Either way, you’ll be hooked (and well hydrated)!
One way to supercharge the boost from drinking water when you wake up is to also spend five minutes working on inversions. For beginners, you could simply do downward dog and other comfortable poses where you head is below your waist. For more advanced inversions, you should try forearm handstands, crow pose, yoga handstands, and scorpion handstands. These will help get your blood flowing and will put you in a good mood!
Stay hydrated Tip 2: Drink pedialyte instead of water, soda, and other drinks
Water is good, but electrolyte drink formulations help your body replace nutrients lost from sweat faster than drinking water alone.
In 2019, the researchers mentioned above from the University of Connecticut, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, University of Stirling, and University of St. Andrews who published a report in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism wrote that:
“a typical sports drink formulation can provide energy . . ., contribute to the replacement of the electrolytes lost in sweat . . ., and generally be absorbed faster than water alone.”
“For all track-and-field athletes, optimal rehydration may best be sustained between training days by behaviorally-driven ingestion of solid food and water.”
“However, between training sessions or events, beverages that contain macronutrients or electrolytes are better retained than water and should be considered.”(internal citations omitted)
Pedialyte has two times the amount of sodium than the typical sports drink.
Pedialyte is the number one drink for dehydration that pharmacists and pediatricians recommend. Although its name suggests that the drink is just for kids, don’t be fooled. Pedialyte is totally safe for adults to drink too. It comes in a variety of flavors and can help prevent dehydration if you drink before a run, and it can help replenish your hydration if you drink it after a run.
Pedialyte, moreover, has two times less sugar than the amount of sugar found in the typical sports drink.
Pedialyte comes in a variety of forms. It comes ready-to-drink in 33.8 fluid oz. containers. Also, it comes in powder form for you to mix into 16 oz of water. Further, it comes as freezer pops for you to stay cool while you hydrate.
Drinking pedialyte helps keep you feeling good by replacing nutrients and electrolytes that you lose when running, sleeping, and through other activity.
The powder form gives you the best value for your dollar. Plus, rather than mix the powder in 16 oz of water, you can mix it in 20-24 oz of water for slightly improved flavor and to help stretch your value.
Pedialyte comes in a variety of flavors. Pedialyte flavors include strawberry lemonade, grape, cherry, orange, strawberry, fruit punch, apple, mixed fruit, tropical fruit, blue raspberry, and others too. Mixing fresh-squeezed lemon or lime with your pedialyte can enhance your pedialyte drink by adding flavor and tartness in addition to nutrition not found in pedialyte itself.
Some of the best pedialyte cocktail combinations are strawberry lemonade pedialyte with fresh-squeezed lemon, cherry pedialyte with fresh-squeezed lime, and orange pedialyte with fresh-squeezed lemon.
By drinking pedialyte instead of water, soda and sports drinks, you are providing your body and mind with more of the nutrition they need to perform properly and less of what causes your body and mind to perform poorly.
Pedialyte has the perfect balance of electrolytes, sugar, and water to replace what you lose through sweating and breathing when you run. After your run, and before you start your recovery yoga, be sure to drink pedialyte so that your body can start absorbing the water and nutrition it needs for recovery.
Stay hydrated Tip 3: Keep a hydrating drink nearby throughout the day
Keeping a hydrating drink near you throughout the day will help encourage you to stay hydrated at all times. The drink can be water, pedialyte, or any other drink that helps you stay hydrated. The key is access.
By always having a drink near you, you will have quick and easy access to your drink. The obstacles to drinking it, however low those obstacles are already, are even lower, which will make it more likely you will stay hydrated. For instance, if you prepare a drink before you run, it will be ready immediately when you’re done running. Therefore, you can focus on other parts of your recovery while you hydrate.
These mugs help keep hot beverages hot for hours and also keep cold beverages cold for the same amount of time. An insulated mug will keep your drink at the proper temperature for most of the day.
This means you can mix a large pedialyte cocktail once and drink it over a few hours rather than make a bunch of small batches throughout the day. When you return from your run, your drink will already be made. Hence, increasing the likelihood you’ll stay hydrated.
Remember, your hydration strategy should fit your needs. Not everyone will have the same requirements, though. In 2008, the researchers mentioned above from the United Kingdom whoe published a paper in Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism entitled Development of Individual Hydration Strategies for Athletes wrote that:
“An appropriate drinking strategy will take account of preexercise hydration status and of fluid, electrolyte, and substrate needs before, during, and after a period of exercise. Strategies will vary greatly between individuals and will also be influenced by environmental conditions, competition regulations, and other factors.”
Therefore, if your hydration strategy requires so, one thing you can do to help always have a drink nearby is to get a fanny pack.
It’s perfect for always having your favorite drink with you, even when you’re not at home. For instance, if you go for a long run and want some emergency hydration, Or, if you start your run at one location and end at another, you can be sure to have proper hydration with you at all times. Plus, with the right fanny pack, you can wear it with many different outfits without anyone even knowing.
By always having your favorite drink on you, you increase access to hydration, which will help your recovery yoga and your running.
Stay hydrated Tip 4: Drink a variety of flavors and types of drinks
To prevent burnout with one drink, try to drink a variety of flavors and types of drinks. For instance, don’t drink only grape pedialyte. Rotate between different flavors. One day drink grape. Then next day drink strawberry lemonade. The following day drink an even different flavor. Don’t stop there.
Try drinks other than pedialyte. Look for drinks that are low in sugar and not carbonated. For instance, coconut water is a good option.
Coconut water has no added sugars, only 8-10 grams of natural sugars, is 50 calories, and coconut water isn’t carbonated.
You could also try drinking iced tea. Be sure it has no or only very little added sugar. If drinking iced tea without added sugar is too boring for you, try adding fresh-squeezed lemon or lime to your iced tea. If you insist on adding some sugar, try adding honey instead of sugar or other sweeteners.
You don’t have to drink everything. Just try to mix up what you drink so that you don’t get tired of one thing. Plus, drinking a variety of brands, beverages, and flavors can help get you a more well-rounded and balanced set of nutrition.
Stay hydrated Tip 5: Eat foods that are high in water content
Not only do liquids hydrate you, many foods do too. When focusing on hydration for recovering from a hot yoga class or a run, be sure to select hydrating foods. For instance, many fruits and vegetables are packed full of water, like watermelon, oranges, grapefruits, apples, avocado, lettuce, greens, tomatoes, carrots, and beets.
Moreover, some foods that you cook in water before eating absorb water that you then absorb while digesting. For instance, rice, beans, and noodles are foods you cook in water. Even sauces that you put on your rice, beans and noodles, like tomato and cheese sauces, can be water-based.
If you’re only drinking liquids and not eating enough hydrating foods, it’s not easy to stay hydrated. When considering hydrating foods, don’t only consider whether they have water. Also consider how much salt, sugar, and other ingredients the food has.
Remember, in addition to drinking liquids, you should be sure to eat foods that are hydrating.
Stay hydrated Tip 6: Rehydrate after every run
You should drink water or some other hydrating drink after every yoga or running session. You no doubt will sweat when you exercise. Hence, you will lose water and nutrients that, if you don’t replace, will dehydrate you.
Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, crankiness, dry skin and other issues. By rehydrating after every training, you will be sure to minimize the chances of becoming dehydrated and may help reduce the severity of symptoms if you do become dehydrated.
Stay hydrated Tip 7: Hydrate after flying, after drinking coffee, and after drinking alcohol
Factors other than exercise can contribute to your dehydration. For instance, flying in airplanes, drinking coffee, being in higher altitudes, and drinking alcohol are all dehydrating.
You should have good situational awareness and know when you need to rehydrate based on your activities. For instance, after having a morning coffee, be sure to drink some water or coconut water. Or, while you’re flying to visit family, be sure to drink pedialyte or iced tea on the plane.
Even if you don’t realize you’re becoming dehydrated, stay in tune with what you’ve been doing. You may gradually becoming dehydrated. Listen to your body. If you’re crankier than usual or having more frequent and intense headaches or maybe you’re more tired than usual. It’s possible you’re dehydrated.