Staying Hydrated While Exercising

Author: Wildfire Sports & Trek  Date Posted: 10 January 2024

We all know how intense summers in Australia can be. To stay safe and healthy when exercising during these months, we’ve come up with some suggestions to avoid dehydration.

Before you begin

Person drinking from a hydration flask

Hydrate before exercise: drink water before you start exercising. A good rule of thumb is to drink about 450-600 ml of water two to three hours before your workout, and then another 250ml about 20-30 minutes before you start. 

Avoid alcohol and caffeine pre-exercise: try to avoid drinks that can dehydrate you, like those containing alcohol or caffeine, before working out.

Plan your workouts during cooler times: if possible, schedule your workouts during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

Dress appropriately: wear lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothes to help sweat evaporate and cool your body more efficiently.

Know your personal needs: everyone's body is different, and factors like body size, workout intensity, and sweat rate can affect hydration needs. It may take some time to figure out the best hydration strategy for you. 

During exercise

Keep drinking: keep sipping water throughout your workout. A general guideline is to drink 200-300 ml of fluid every 10-20 minutes during exercise. However, this can vary based on your sweat rate, the humidity, and the intensity of the exercise. Once you know how much water you’ll need to carry for your session, consider your water-carrying options, from handheld bottles to vests with flasks and bladders. Soft flasks and bladders are great for long exercise sessions, as they take up much less space as you drink.

Replenish your electrolytes for long workouts: for exercise that lasts longer than an hour, consider adding electrolytes to your water. This is particularly important in very hot and/or humid weather, especially if you're sweating profusely, as you lose electrolytes like sodium and potassium through sweat. Without these, your internal fluid balance can be compromised. This fluid balance is responsible for nerve and muscle functions and can help in avoiding muscle cramps. Note: while they may be appealing in taste, cordials and juices do not contain enough sodium to sustain long exercise. Instead, opt for an electrolyte supplement like a sports drink, gel or electrolyte tablet alongside plenty of water.

Person running along a river

Listen to your body: pay attention to signs of dehydration and overheating, such as dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth (including a build up of phlegm), or decreased sweat output. If you experience any of these, stop exercising, find a cool place, and rehydrate.

Adjust intensity based on the heat: be prepared to lower the intensity of your workout if it's particularly hot or humid. Your body will need more energy to cope with the heat, which can affect your performance and hydration needs.

Rehydrate post-exercise: after your workout, replenish fluids. A good way to estimate how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every ½ kg lost, drink about 500-750 ml of fluid over the next few hours. You’ll keep losing water after exercise, so keep drinking.

Remember, staying hydrated is key to maintaining performance and preventing heat-related illnesses during exercise. If you're planning particularly long or intense workout sessions, or if you have any health concerns, it might be a good idea to consult with a sports nutritionist or a healthcare professional for personalised advice.