Not drinking water after exercise is easily one of the biggest mistakes you can make and one of the easiest to fix.
As you'll see below, it is a critical nutrient for your body to perform at its peak and strengthen effectively and efficiently. You're probably exercising to achieve a higher level of vitality, health and strength or perhaps to lose weight.
Whatever your reason, drinking water after exercise is one of the strongest nutritional supporters in that endeavor enabling you to work with your body rather than against it.
Why Drinking Water After Exercise Is So Important
- When you sweat, the water you are losing is coming from cells and plasma in the blood. This reduces blood volume which adds stress to the heart and cardiovascular system as a whole. It also makes it harder for your body to fuel the muscles you are working.
- As blood volume drops because of dehydration, the heart has to beat 3 to 6 times more per minute to compensate for the reduction. In extreme cases, you may feel like your heart is racing even though you've caught your breath.
- Studies show that that the regulation of your heart rate is suppressed after a hard workout. Drinking water after exercise has shown to quickly restore normal heart rate regulation.
- When working out, you can sweat 1 to 4% of your body weight out per hour. That doesn't sound like much, but that can easily add up to several pounds. This puts you in a state of dehydration.
- Many people supplement with protein and the body needs even more water to process large amounts of it further adding to a hydration deficit.
- When working out, water is diverted to the muscle tissues. In the world of bodybuilding, this is called the "pump". When you're dehydrated, water is moved back out of the muscle to the blood again to help the cardiovascular system deal with the dehydration issue. When this happens, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is reduced. This slows recovery and slows the gains in performance the working out was supposed to produce. Drinking water after exercise maintains this process to help you get the most from your workouts.
Tips For Drinking Water After Exercise
Now that we know why drinking water after exercise is so important, here's some tips on staying properly hydrated:
- Go into your workout hydrated. Drink 18 to 24 oz before you head to the gym.
- Drink about 8 oz of water every 15-20 minutes of workout. I always bring a water bottle with me of purified water and sip on it between sets. If I'm going to be working out for 45 minutes, then I know I need at least 24 oz of water in my bottle and my water bottle should be empty by the end of my workout.
- If you live in a hot humid or very dry environment, you need even more. I have lived in both Florida and Colorado. Florida is hot and humid and I sweat a ton when I work out. In Colorado, it is either hot or cold depending on the season, but the humidity is usually very low. In a dry environment like Colorado, it doesn't seem like you're sweating much, but you are...it's just evaporating much faster.
- There is no need for sports drinks unless you are working out hard for over an hour.
- Weight yourself before and after your workout. If you weighed 150 lb when you began and 147 afterwards, you've lost 3 lb of water. Drink up!
- After your workout, even if you have had sufficient water during your workout, drink even more! I usually drink another 18 to 24 oz of water right after I am done.
- If you supplement with protein shakes after your workout, you need to drink even more because of the amount of water your body needs to process the protein.
- Drink the most pure water that you can. Tap water can have a lot of chemicals in it that can do everything from disrupt hormone balances to cause cancer. Believe me, you need to purify your water!
- During the day between workouts, your water consumption should continue. There are no good reasons to drink your calories so keep the water coming! Click here for more information on why drinking water is so important to vitality, health and strength.
Why Sugary Sports Drinks Are Not The Same As Water
I used to chug a lot of sports drinks during and after workouts. They are very sugary and many use high fructose corn syrup which I am not a fan of...but they also provide electrolytes which we need. Hold that thought...I'll cover that in just a minute.
Luckily, I was able to think critically about the use of sports drinks for working out and that drove me to research whether or not they were actually needed. I then experimented by using only water during and after working out and I had great results. I lost body fat and leaned out with more muscle mass. What could be better than that?
I mean, let's face it, humans have only had access to sports drinks for a very short period of time in our existence on this planet. We have always done just fine without them despite hard physical exertion.
To make a long story short, those sugary drinks with added electrolytes are not only unnecessary for most people but can sabotage the very goals you are trying to achieve by working out in the first place.
If you're exercising, chances are you're trying to maintain a good figure, lose weight or build muscle. Adding sugar to your body throughout this process only produces an insulin response driving weight gain. It's totally counterproductive. We need to work with our bodies, not against them.
If you are an extreme athlete and you are running an hours long marathon, ironman or triathlon for example, sports drinks may very well be necessary to quickly replenish electrolytes and blood glucose levels...especially when the glycogen in your muscles have been depleted. Otherwise, drinking water after exercise will be all you need.
So What About Replenishing Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are nutrients that are important for the proper function of you body's electrical system. Everything from your heart beat to muscle and nerve impulses. If you don't get enough, it leads to muscle cramps, spasms and even headaches.
The electrolytes you need are calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium and chloride. You can get all of these nutrients from eating a healthy diet and you will not need to supplement if you eat right.
When you sweat from exercise, potassium and sodium are the ones you'll lose the most of. They're also easy to replenish. Specifically, here are some foods you can use to replenish electrolytes:
Natural Sources of Sodium
Natural Sources of Potassium
- Just about any green leafy veggie like kale and spinach
Natural Sources of Magnesium and Calcium
- Nuts and seeds
- Just about any green leafy veggie like kale and spinach (again!)
One last thing about electrolytes I just have to mention. If you absolutely must drink something besides water for a change with your workouts, then coconut water has got to be natures most perfect workout recovery drink. It is low in calories and sugar, has all kinds of electrolytes and tastes great. One tip...be certain it's organic!