How Much Water Should You Drink During Exercise?

Athletes need to stay hydrated, but just how much water should you drink?

How much water should you drink during exercise?
How much water should you drink during exercise?. Image Source/Getty Images

One of the most common recommendations for athletes is to be sure to stay hydrated during exercise. But what, and how much should you drink to accomplish that?

The answer to "How much water should I drink to stay well-hydrated before, during and after exercise?" will vary for each athlete, and it largely depends upon the intensity and duration of exercise being performed. Many factors affect an athlete's hydration needs.

Things such as the air temperature, humidity, altitude and even an athlete's unique physiology and efficiency during exercise can affect how much water they'll need to consume to maintain optimal performance during sustained exercise.

Although it can be a difficult to determine exactly how much water an individual need to drink each day, the following recommendations provide a good starting point for most athletes.

How Much Water Should Athletes Drink Each Day?

If you are training regularly, you will probably need between one half and one whole ounce of water (or other fluids) for each pound of body weight per day.

To determine your baseline range for water requirement, use the following formula:

Low end of range = Body weight (lbs) x 0.5 = (ounces of fluid/day)
High end of range = Body weight (lbs) x 1.0 = (ounces of fluid/day)

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your approximate water requirement will be between 75 and 150 ounces each day.

When to Drink Water 

Begin the day with a large glass of water each morning, whether it's a training or a rest day. On training days, the following schedule works well for most athletes:

  1. Water (Fluid) Intake Schedule
  2. Before Exercise
    • Drink two to three cups of water within the two hours before your workout.
    • Weigh yourself immediately before you begin your workout.
  1. During Exercise
    • Drink one cup of water every 15 minutes.
  2. After Exercise
    • Weigh yourself immediately after you finish your workout.
    • Drink two to three Cups of water for each pound lost during exercise.

How Much Water to Drink

If you are exercising at a moderate to high intensity for more than 90 minutes, you will want to consume more than plain water. You need to replenish glycogen stores with easy-to-digest carbohydrate. Sports drinks can be an easy way to add the necessary energy. For longer workouts, choose a drink with 60 to 100 calories per eight ounces and consume eight to ten ounces every 15 to 30 minutes based upon your preference. For those exercising in extreme conditions over three, four or five hours, you'll need to replace electrolytes. A complex sports drink, NUUN tablets, or other foods will help provide the needed calories and electrolytes required for continuous performance.

Natural Electrolytes

Because of the importance of sodium levels and electrolytes during training and competition, remember to strike a balance between drinking water and drinking a natural source of carbohydrates and electrolytes. Coconut water is a natural source of carbohydrate and electrolytes without the added sugar and preservatives found in sports drinks.

You may even prepare your own electrolyte drink by adding honey, lemon, and freshly squeezed juice with water.

Sources:

Consensus Statement of the 1st International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, Cape Town, South Africa 2005. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 15(4):208-213, July 2005.

Exercise and Fluid Replacement, ACSM Position Stand, American College Of Sports Medicine, Medicine and Science In Sports & Exercise, 2007.

Institute of Medicine. Water. In: Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Sodium, Chloride, Potassium and Sulfate, Washington, D.C: National Academy Press, pp. 73–185, 2005.

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