If fitness is important to you, then there are most likely a host of routines and disciplines you follow each day in the name of building muscle – a certain amount of time spent working out, a specific diet, a set intake of vitamins, calories, and protein, etc.

But what’s often overlooked amongst the crowded list of healthy habits is water consumption. A vital nutrient that makes up two-thirds of our body, water is crucial to building and developing strong muscles.

To better help you prioritize drinking water during your workouts, here are four ways it can benefit you.

Water Energizes Your Muscles

As with most things in your body, muscles require a certain balance in order to function at their optimal levels. Whether you’re hydrating before you hit the gym or prior to an important race, without enough water, your muscles are not getting the electrolytes you need to maintain balance – which results in weakening strength and control and even dehydration. If you drink the appropriate amount of water, your muscles become energized, allowing you to be more awake, alert and perform at a higher level.

Water Lubricates Your Joints

Water is a key nutrient in the makeup of the synovial fluid, which helps lubricate your joints and allows for ease of movement. If you fail to drink enough water, even for a short time, less fluid is available to protect your joints – which can be detrimental with the added stress from weight lifting. Drinking water provides that protective fluid which will help you optimize performance and give longer life to your joints.

Water Helps You Tolerate More Pain

According to the journal Psychophysiology, drinking an adequate amount of water can help increase your endurance and tolerance to pain. When in a dehydrated state – that is, drinking under your recommended daily dose of water – perception, and sensitivity to pain is radically higher. If you want to keep your workouts longer and more intense to build better muscles, up your water intake and reap the benefits.

Water Speeds Up Your Recovery Time

Sore muscles are one of the biggest prohibitors of consistent strength building and can be tough to work through. Dehydration can make the recovery period feel even worse. Drinking water is beneficial in speeding up that recovery time and eradicating feelings of soreness – removing toxins from your body and keeping your muscles in proper working order.

Should You Drink Water Throughout the Workout Or Wait Until the End?

Drinking an adequate amount of water before and after class can directly affect how you feel during the halfway point, so make sure you’re gulping enough throughout the day. But what exactly is that magic number? While dehydration can make it difficult to get through a workout and be a danger to your health, drinking too much water can also slow yourself down. So, should you really drink throughout your workout or limit it to a big swig at the end of class?

Drinking water during a workout

The main goals of intaking H2O throughout your exercise routine are to prevent dehydration and to not drink more than you’re sweating out. In order to figure out if you’re drinking enough, weigh yourself without clothes before and after a typical workout. If your weight changes more than two percent of your starting weight, you should plan to drink more water throughout your workout in the future.

To avoid that from happening in the first place, the American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before a workout. Then, about 20 to 30 minutes beforehand, drink another 8 ounces. While exercising, continue to drink 7 to 10 ounces about every 10 to 20 minutes. Within 30 minutes of completing the workout routine, drink another 8 ounces and continue to gulp down 16 to 24 ounces for each pound you lost during the workout to regain the water you sweated out.

If you’re exercising for longer than two hours or in a hot, humid environment, regular drinking water might not suffice for the hard work you’re putting your body through. Vigorous exercise like this can deplete your supply of glycogen that the muscle cells use up. If you can’t take a break to refuel–say, you’re running a marathon–you can turn to those bright colored sports drinks for a burst of much-needed carbs and sodium.

Drinking water at the end of a workout

So, what if you’re in a class that doesn’t take water breaks or on a run and didn’t bring a bottle of water? Are you doomed? Well, not exactly. If your normal routine lasts about an hour or less and doesn’t involve sweating it out in hot or humid weather, you can probably make it without a few sips of water. The average-sized healthy person can produce as much as 32 ounces of sweat in a 60-minute session of vigorous indoor exercise, and while that might sound intense you shouldn’t be affected if you’ve properly prepared throughout the day by, you guessed it, drinking the recommended amount of water.

You can see whether or not you should hydrate during class with a simple, yet somewhat gross, test beforehand: examining your urine. If it’s dark with a strong smell, consider drinking throughout your exercise routine, but if it’s a clear to light yellow you can leave the water bottle in your gym bag. Just don’t forget to rehydrate after class! Water encourages your body to move waste products out of the joints and muscles, reduces pain, improves flexibility, and decreases recovery time.

The winner

Whether you’re participating in a one-hour HIIT class or full-blown marathon, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the workout. Be sure to prepare during the day by drinking the daily recommended amount of water and fueling your muscles after with another glass or two. If you really don’t want to sip in class, you can probably skip it only if you’ve been hydrating steadily throughout the day and aren’t feeling thirsty in class.

The bottom line: listen to your body. If it’s calling for water, take a sip or two. Bottoms up!


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