Hydration: Myths and Truths

The body is over 60% water, so it’s easy to understand why dehydration can have negative effects on the body. It is important to stay hydrated all the time, but we have to be especially mindful of our hydration during times of exercise or illness. It is easy to forget to hydrate when you’re exercising or becoming sick, but it is even more important to do so during these stressful times on our body.

Hydration for Exercise

Myth: You can’t drink too much water.

Truth: It is important to hydrate pre, during, and post workout, but you can drink too much.

In order to assure you stay properly hydrated while working out, you will need to think ahead. Proper hydration begins before your workout does. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking 16-20 ounces of water at least four hours before exercise and 8-12 ounces of water 10-15 minutes before exercise.

During your workout, the ACSM recommends drinking 3-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when exercising for less than 60 minutes. When exercising for greater than 60 minutes, they recommend drinking 3-8 ounces of a sports beverage every 15-20 minutes.  See our blog about sport drinks for more info regarding sports beverages.

The ACSM also recommends that you do not drink more than one quart of water per hour of exercise. “Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia”, according to the Mayo Clinic. In general, eating a healthy, balanced diet, will be sufficient to replenish lost electrolyte stores.  For most people this is a better option than consuming sports beverages, which are high in added sugar. 

After exercise, use the color of your urine to determine your hydration status, and hydrate accordingly.

Hydration while Ill

Myth: “Feed a cold, starve a flu”.

Truth:  Hydration is crucial when sick. Fluids can come from water or foods that are high in water.

Staying hydrated while sick is important because your body is working overtime in order to fight whatever is making you ill.  Making up for fluids that may have been lost during fever, vomiting, or diarrhea is important. You are probably not getting as much water from food as you normally would either. Not to mention that dehydration can also worsen symptoms of congestion.  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends about 2.7 liters of water per day for women, and 3.7 liters per day for men. Sources of water intake can include water or water from food.

If water doesn’t sound too great, as it often does when we’re sick, try hydrating with foods.  Here are some examples of foods that can help you stay hydrated:

  • Watermelon
  • Cucumbers
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Apples

If all else fails, try sucking on ice cubes or swishing water around in your mouth. Even if you can’t swallow it, a small amount of water can be absorbed through the tissues in your mouth. 


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