If you’re anything like us, your first thoughts upon finishing a killer workout are probably more “Oh man, I need to be horizontal RIGHT now” and less “Hmm, I should probably grab my BPA-free reusable water bottle and start drinking the optimal amount of water to rehydrate my system after sweating so profusely for 45 minutes.”
In the grand scheme of things, however, rehydrating is a major part of recovery after a tough workout. Drinking water after a high-intensity workout can help your heart rate slow down to its normal rate, and you’ll also replenish the fluids you lost during your workout and avoid dehydration.
Good news: it’s possible to rehydrate while simultaneously being horizontal (or at least, mostly horizontal with your head propped up — we don’t need anyone’s water going down the wrong pipe). But actually, you should be drinking water at other times surrounding your workout too. Here’s how much water to drink before, during, and after a workout.
Drink Water Leading Up to a Workout
The key to staying hydrated during a workout? Surprisingly, it’s drinking before a workout. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17-20 ounces of water about 2-3 hours before you even start your warm-up. Then, drink an additional 8 ounces of water during your warm-up (16 ounces, if it’s especially hot or humid outside when you’re working out).
Why? Well, you want to start your workout with a full tank of gas — that is, you want to be completely hydrated. You’ll feel stronger and more alert, and your heart won’t have to work as hard to pump blood to your muscles (so you’ll be able to exercise longer).
Continue to Sip During Your Workout
As a rule of thumb, drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes during your workout. You may drink a little more if it’s especially hot outside, or you may drink a little less if your chosen activity makes drinking that much water uncomfortable (think doing handstands in a yoga class, or flat-road max sprints on the treadmill).
If you’re in EXTREME heat, or your workout is over an hour (you good-looking overachiever, you), you might want to sip from a sports drink during your workout to help replace electrolytes and sodium — just make sure you read the nutritional label on the drink and aren’t pumping sugar into your bloodstream. Otherwise, water will be enough for you.
Rehydrate Within 30 Minutes Post-Workout
In general, drink about 8 ounces of water within a half-hour of your workout’s merciful end. If you notice that you tend to sweat more than the other gym-goers around you (hey, no judgment), you’ll need to drink a little more to compensate.
Another way to judge how much water you need to drink post-workout is to weigh yourself before and after your workout, then drink 150% of the water weight you just lost. For example, if you weigh one pound less after your workout, drink about 1.5 pounds (or 24 ounces) of water afterwards.
Looking to add even more recovery drink to your repertoire? In addition to water, you can drink tart cherry juice or chocolate milk to help with muscle recovery. Tart cherry juice accelerates muscle recovery, and chocolate milk (besides being delicious at any age) has the ideal ratio of protein to carbs for repairing muscle.
Moral of the story? Drinking water makes your body more efficient when you’re working out and during your recovery period afterwards. Invest in a BPA-free reusable water bottle with volume markings on the side, so you can easily track how much water you’re drinking before, during, and after exercise. Now, get out there and crush your next workout.