How to Hydrate for a Workout, According to a Sports Nutritionist

woman running on beach
Courtesy of Sweaty Betty

Ed. note: Our resident nutritionist, Kim Juarez, M.S., is back for her biweekly column answering all of your burning questions about health and wellness. Here’s our latest reader dilemma: “When working out, is water the best option for hydration? What about sports drinks? I’m confused about how best to hydrate before, during, and after my workout with so many choices in the market.” Read on for her exercise hydration tips.

If you feel confused about sports drinks and proper hydration, you are not alone. Just google “sports drinks and hydration” and you will be presented with almost 14 million search results. Who has time to sift through all of that information? Athletes and recreational exercisers in the past relied on water for the most part to hydrate, but as the overall liquid refreshment market has exploded in the past few decades it has left many confused people behind.

The industry has come a long way since the birth of Gatorade in the summer of 1965, at the University of Florida where the Gator’s assistant football coach wanted a solution for players whose performance was being compromised by the heat. Finding that these athletes were losing carbohydrates, water, and electrolytes during practice, scientists formulated the carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and called it Gatorade. Soon, the sport drink industry was born.

These days the majority of recreational athletes are not playing football in the Florida summer heat, so water is the best option for hydration before, during, and after a workout that is 90 minutes or less. The main goal for hydration is to replace the fluids lost in sweat. You can determine your sweat losses from a workout, called your sweat rate, by weighing yourself nude before and after an hour of exercise. To stay in optimal fluid balance while exercising, you should aim to drink 16 oz. (2 cups) for every pound lost during your workout to replace those sweat losses.

Here are five helpful hints to best hydrate your workout:

  1. To ensure you are properly hydrated before exercise, drink 1 to 2 cups of water 1 to 2 hours prior to exercise.
  2. When exercising longer than 90 minutes, a sports drink may be used to replace fluid, electrolyte, and carbohydrate needs. Athletes exercising longer should aim to consume 2 to 4 cups per hour based on body size, sweat rate, and exercise intensity.
  3. Those who exercise in a hot, humid environment or are heavy sweaters may benefit from consuming a sports drink during shorter bouts of exercise.
  4. Drink regular small sips early and often during your workout to stay ahead of your sweat losses. Too many big gulps of water can leave your stomach feeling full like a water balloon.
  5. If you have a hard time getting enough water down the hatch or just get bored with plain ol’ tap water, fill your bottle with hint water to liven up your workout!



Kim Juarez, M.S.

Kim Juarez, M.S. has more than 25 years in the nutrition and health fields. As a healthy lifestyle expert, she brings her passion for the field along with personal and professional experience to her work.

A nutritionist, personal fitness trainer, run coach, consultant, entrepreneur, professor and frequent lecturer, Kim has worked with thousands of individuals on their roads to personal health and wellness.
A mom of four, Kim knows first hand the challenges of balancing work, family ,and health. Her goal is to fight the obesity crisis and obesity-related disease epidemic one person at a time. “We need education, not more medication.”
Have a health, wellness, and nutrition of your own to ask Kim? Ask away below.