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Staying hydrated isn’t difficult, but it can be a lot trickier than chugging water

Photo by Tina Wallace

There is one insurmountable constraint to every workout. Hydration is not as simple as having a bottle of water that you need to refill every once in a while.

Health Canada defines a vigorous workout as one during which you could not have a regularly paced conversation. It also advises that Canadians do vigorous workouts for a minimum of 75 minutes throughout each week or a moderate workout for twice that time. Moderate workouts essentially involve not breaking a sweat.

Drinking water before you exercise, especially in the two hours preceding a workout, is essential to staying hydrated.

Third-year U of O nutrition student Roxanne Dubé explains that during a workout that lasts less than an hour, drinking between 150 to 300 millilitres or roughly one cup of water is advisable every 15 to 20 minutes.  This means taking a break every 15 minutes or so to take a drink, not drinking three cups of water if you work out for 45 minutes.  It’s important to maintain hydration and to not shock your body’s system by overloading it with too much water all at once.

Though water is important, Dubé says it’s not the only thing people should consume during their workouts.

“If you do a workout that lasts longer than an hour, you’ll need to drink more than just water,” she says. “You will need to replenish your electrolytes.”

After 60 minutes of working out, you’ve lost electrolytes that need to be replaced to retain a healthy hydration level. Electrolytes are things like calcium, sodium, potassium, and other nutrients that you can often get from food.

“The best way to replenish nutrients is to just eat food,” says Dubé.  “It’s really that simple.  Alternatively, drinks like Gatorade also do a good job.”

They don’t do the best job, though, because of their sugar content. In the spirit of a healthier workout, you should consume roughly a third of the sugar content in Gatorade per equal volume.  A cheaper option is a combination of orange juice, water, and salt. Another drink option for workouts is a protein shake.

“The idea is that you want to give your body the necessary proteins to repair the muscles’ micro-tears,” says fourth-year health science student Daniel Stojanovic.  “Your body can fix itself either way, but giving it the proteins helps to speed up the process.”

Stojanovic also explains that drinking a lot of chocolate milk after a workout is important. Chocolate milk is a great source of both sugar and protein. Like water, you should avoid overloading your body with protein.

Contrary to popular belief, your body doesn’t simply evacuate all the extra protein.  People should only consume 0.7 to 2.5 grams of protein per killigram of body weight. The amount of protein needed also varies depending on a person’s level of activity—inactive people need 0.7 grams, Olympic athletes need 2.5 grams, and the average person generally requires 1 to 1.3 grams.

Don’t forget to drink water and replenish your electrolytes if you plan on working out, especially if those workouts are long and vigorous. Keep a water bottle with you at all times when you’re at the gym, and be sure to keep a carton of chocolate milk nearby as well.