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Fitness Strategies  ›  Exercise Basics

Drinking Water During Exercise

How Much Water Should I Drink When I Work Out?

-- By Dean Anderson, Personal Trainer and Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
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Likewise, when you sweat heavily for an extended period, you’re not losing just plain water. You’re also losing a significant amount of sodium, which needs to be maintained within a certain range to avoid potentially serious problems like exercise-induced hyponatremia (a serum sodium concentration <130 mEq/L), which can also occur if you drink too much plain water, in a short time period. It isn’t very easy to give yourself hyponatremia: An otherwise healthy person would have to combine hours of heavy sweating with drinking significantly more water than they’re actually losing during the exercise and not replacing the lost sodium. You can avoid this by making sure your water intake during and immediately after exercise is equal to the amount you lose (see above about weighing yourself).

For particularly long endurance workouts OR exercise sessions in hot and humid weather, one may need more than the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for sodium (2,300 milligrams daily). That's why commercial sports drinks are often recommended for athletes taking part in such endurance events. Make sure the sports drink contains about 120–170 milligrams of sodium per 8-ounce serving. If you are looking for a less expensive option for the commercial sports drink, try this simple recipe. You may also need to replace lost sodium by consuming high-sodium foods and beverages following the event. High sodium food choices could include: canned soups, beans and vegetables; boxed side dishes like macaroni and cheese, potato mixes, or rice blends; Oriental style entrees with soy sauce; pizza; jarred spaghetti sauce; salted nuts; and regular cheese.

Sources
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. "Nutrition and Athletic Performance." 109 (2009): 509-527.

Ivy, J.L., Costill, D.L., Fink, W.J., Lower, R.W. "Influence of caffeine and carbohydrate feedings on endurance performance." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 43 (2011).

Sawka M.N., Burke L.M., Eichner E.R., Maughan R.J., Montain S.J., Stachenfeld N.S. Exercise and Fluid Replacement." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 39 (2007): 377-390.

Wedro, Benjamin C. "Heat Exhaustion," accessed July 2011. MedicineNet.com.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • UWGRAD07
    Thanks for sharing...I've also read that we are supposed to drink half our body weight in ounces. I drink one bottle of water on my way to work every morning and I keep 3 bottles of water on my desk, this helps me to remember throughout the day to drink water. I also keep a case of water at work so it's always handy instead of trying to purchase or reach for other beverages. - 6/17/2014 11:47:41 AM
  • Good reminders. Thanks for sharing. - 9/14/2013 7:36:34 AM
  • Loved the article and it applies to people like me with relatively moderate workouts. However, there is some interesting research about rigorous work outs and recovery meals. Apparently eating high carbs immediately following an intense workout (over and hour) significantly reduces to recovery time of you body. For example, a college level athlete might be given a whole pizza following a football game and a second high carb meal 60 to 90 minutes later. Just interesting fodder...... - 8/25/2013 9:25:04 AM
  • Great advise. I need to remember to drink more water! - 2/14/2013 9:23:37 PM
  • EMILYAW1
    For me, I always have water on-hand when I work out, but I rarely finish an entire 12 ounce bottle before my workout (even 60 minute ones) are over.
    This is because I find that I don't need to rehydrate my body so immediately during a workout as I need to wet my whistle. I especially don't drink more than a sip or two when I'm about to do ab work (on my back or front). If I do, I can feel the water rise in my throat.
    It's best to drink in moderation during exercise, and excess afterwards. - 12/8/2012 4:55:53 PM
  • Good info, good reminder, basic and solid need to know information. - 10/4/2012 12:28:14 AM
  • This is such a good reminder, along with specifics I never knew. It's 2pm and here I am haven't had a drink of water at all today! - 10/2/2012 3:06:43 PM
  • ASHPATCH11
    For me ....

    During any one basketball game I often have many sips where I sub off or its half time. However if I am super thrity i try not to chugg or it makes my belly sloshy no good to run with.

    During a weekend tourmament with 3-4 games within a few hours i will drink water and a sports drink.

    During a 60min run outside i dont drink any water during the run but i do drink just before and after the run.

    I like the advise of doing what feels right!
    - 10/2/2012 11:39:40 AM
  • All good info, especially the part that says - do what feels right and you prefer!
    - 8/24/2012 9:39:05 AM
  • This sounds like a sane article; certainly made me feel better. Like some commenters, I cannot bear the thought of drinking during my exercise sessions. I even feel nauseated if I think of drinking about 15 minutes afterwards. I feel weird because I am really the only one in my gym without a water bottle; everyone else is sipping away. The ironic thing is that very few people work out at my intensity, plus I sweat until my clothes are drenched. But I do not want to drink. I pack a small thermos of cold water or lemonade and drink it in the car about 15-20 minutes afterward. - 8/24/2012 8:50:20 AM
  • I cannot drink during any type of exercise. I get nauseous. have vomit a couple of times. - 8/24/2012 7:28:32 AM
  • I'm someone who needs to take at least a sip to a few gulps of water between each routine during Zumba. It makes sense, because I sweat a lot, but it still seemed like a lot of water to be drinking--about 8 oz. per 15 minutes of exercise. I'm relieved to find out that it's an acceptable amount of water to be drinking. :) - 6/28/2012 1:42:40 PM
  • == *If possible, weigh yourself on the same scale, before and after exercise so you know how much to drink for rehydration. ==

    There are people I really wish could understand this - that the only real change from before to after exercise is water loss and that it needs to be replenished rather than celebrated as a weight loss. - 6/18/2012 12:39:42 PM
  • This article answered a long-time question for me. I find that if I drink while I run I get really sick to my stomach -- almost like motion sickness -- and I feel like I am going to vomit. It has a significantly detrimental impact on my running. So my answer was not to drink while I run. But my running partner thinks I'm crazy and I'm going to die. She drinks almost constantly while we run -- even short 3 milers. After reading this article I realized that starting about an hour and a half before a run (and stopping about 30 minutes before) I drink a LOT of water. By the time I start running it is no longer sloshing around in my stomach and I'm fine. I know that I don't have any symptoms of dehydration because I am able to maintain my pace without problems and I don't have any cramping. I will have my running partner read this and then maybe she will feel better (or at least know when she needs to call the ambulance if I do get dehydrated! ;-) Thanks SparkPeople - 6/18/2012 11:32:03 AM
  • I understand the importance of water during a workout, but i know i dont drink more than one bottle the entire 60 min workout. I do alot of sprints, so i dont want to get a stitch on the next sprint cycle so i drink 2-3 swallows at a time until the bottle is gone, usallly by the end of the workout. Then as i am winding down, i drink v8 and eat protien and have another bottle of water, this time flavored with crystal lite. - 9/4/2011 7:04:44 AM
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