Summer Hydration and Exercise Performance: Everything You Need To Know

Summer is upon us. Which is just fantastic. But that same glorious heat that frees humanity from winter and sends us flooding outside in droves can also create some problems. Especially for the athletes out there. After all, it can be incredibly tempting to move all of your workouts outside to soak up all the warmth and sun that you possibly can. Doing so, however, could put you at risk for dehydration and heat-related conditions.

So, how can you enjoy the summer while also staying hydrated?

Why It Matters

Before we dive into how to hydrate, though, it’s probably a good idea to review the issue of why. In general, hydration is one of those health topics that people know is important but, when pressed, don’t always fully understand the importance of it. Once you do, however, it becomes easier to make hydration a priority in your training and fitness routine.

Put simply, water is a key ingredient in your body. About 60 percent of the human body is composed of the liquid. (Granted, this is a stark decrease from the 90 percent that many of us were taught in school. But, it’s still pretty impressive.) One of the primary purposes of water in the human is that of temperature control.

Through a variety of mechanisms, including sweat, water help your body maintain a healthy and safe core temperature. If you didn’t have this assistance and ran off into the summer heat, your body temperature could quickly rise above healthy levels, interrupting your energy production systems and even damaging various tissues. Not only would this reduce your performance and interfere with recovery, but it could cause even more severe health conditions like heat sickness or heat stroke.

Proper hydration will also help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels – which is important all the time. During exercise, though, your heart starts pumping harder and blood pressure naturally rises. If this increase is too severe, however, your heart and entire cardiovascular system is simply working too hard to keep up with the demands of your workout.

Finally, water is vital for the transportation and processing of nutrients, oxygen and waste throughout your body. Without adequate hydration levels, your body will not be able to fuel your workout.

Of course, water does a whole bunch of other stuff ranging from joint lubrication to organ function which all impact your overall health and exercise performance. The above-mentioned benefits, though, are those that could be directly felt when exercising in the summer heat.

Practical Stuff

 Right, so that briefly covers why you should think about hydration as part of your routine. Now, let’s cover how to do it. Here are the basic guidelines used by the American Council on Exercise:

  • 2 to 3 hours before exercising: 17 to 20oz
  • 30 minutes before: 8oz
  • Every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise: 10oz
  • 30 minutes after: 8oz
  • Drink 16oz for every pound lost

Granted, that’s quite a bit of information to process. The principle, though, is to begin your workout fully hydrated and maintain those levels throughout.

But, what about sports drinks? The truth is that most workouts simply don’t require the extra electrolytes and carbs found in these well-marketed products. The only time that you would want to use sports drinks instead of water is if you are exercising in the heat for over an hour.