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The Ultimate Guide to Hydration & RecoveryUpdated 2 months ago

The Ultimate Guide to Hydration & Recovery

Most people know that water is extremely important to their health. I’d be willing to bet they also know that proper hydration is crucial when exercising too. Your body is, after all, about 60% water (1).

Drinking water around your workouts can help regulate body temperature, deliver nutrients and oxygen to your cells, and support waste removal. Plus, if you’re working out in the heat, it may just save you from passing out!

But too often, people forget about the valuable role hydration plays in recovery.

So let’s dive into the benefits of hydration and how it affects recovery. I’ll also cover the consequences of dehydration and tips on how to stay hydrated.

That way, you'll be hydrated and equipped for better workouts, recovery, and results!


THE BENEFITS OF HYDRATION, AND HOW IT AFFECTS RECOVERY

So, how does hydration affect recovery? What role does it play?

Well, when you train hard, you break down your muscles and put stress on your body. In order to recover properly, you need an adequate amount of rest.

No, I don’t mean sitting on the couch and relaxing. Resting refers to not overworking your muscles by training them too frequently. But that's not all that goes into the recovery equation.

Optimizing your recovery also includes your nutrition, your sleep, and your hydration! Hydration alone can have a lot of key benefits to your recovery and workouts.

So, here are 5 important things that getting enough water can help with:


1. PROPER HYDRATION AIDS IN POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY

Building muscle requires breaking down your muscles a bit at a time. Recovery can be described as everything you're doing afterward to build them back up. 

That’s part of the reason why it’s important to rest your muscles before training them again. It takes time to repair all that damage.

Now, one important component to the rebuilding process is giving your muscle tissue the right nutrients. This requires, you guessed it, water!

Believe it or not, your muscles are made of roughly 76% water (2). So, water is definitely a must when it comes to recovery.

If you’re dehydrated, it can slow down the recovery process. Let's be real, nobody wants that.

Also, refilling glycogen stores is important for recovery too. These are the stores of carbohydrates inside your muscles.

Glycogen is also a fuel reserve your body taps into and uses during intense exercise. So, if you want to exercise again, you need to replenish these energy stores.

For every gram of glycogen you store in the muscle, your body stores at least 3 grams of water with it (3). While it may not seem to be related, hydration is important, even for replenishing energy.

Yes, you need protein and carbs to recover properly. Yes, you also need plenty of sleep. But don’t forget how important water is in this equation too!


2. BEING HYDRATED CAN HELP YOU PERFORM AT YOUR BEST

Water is in every single human cell. If you don’t have enough water in your system, then nothing is going to work the way it’s meant to.

Water plays a role in cushioning your joints, and is crucial for muscle function too. Believe it or not, you even need water to breathe and absorb oxygen properly (4). 

Now, without proper muscle function, your athletic performance is sure to suffer. If you are absorbing oxygen less efficiently, you won’t be able to push yourself very hard either.

So, when it comes to your performance, water is essential. But there's more to it than that.

You see, water also makes up over 50% of your blood. If you’re dehydrated, that means your blood is likely to be thicker, and harder for your body to circulate.

Take this for example: Have you ever noticed a protein shake is thicker when you mix it with less water? Your blood is the same when you’re dehydrated. 

Now imagine 2 hoses, with each representing your cardiovascular system. One with water coming out, and one with a thick protein shake coming out.

Water will move a lot more easily through that hose than a protein shake will. Imagine how much harder your heart has to work to get thicker blood to circulate.

If you’re not properly hydrated, it stresses your cardiovascular system and increases your risk of injury (5). Obviously, that won’t help your performance in any way.

To take this a step further. Remember the muscle glycogen stores I talked about earlier?

Studies show that if you don’t rehydrate after a sweaty workout, your ability to replenish glycogen in your muscles decreases (6). This means if you don’t hydrate well today, you may literally perform worse tomorrow.

That’s what happens when you don’t have enough energy. You’ll run out of gas much more quickly. 

Never take hydration for granted when it comes to your performance! Stay consistent, and you'll notice the difference in no time.


3. PROPER HYDRATION CAN REDUCE FATIGUE

When you are dehydrated, your blood volume is decreased. As I mentioned earlier, dehydrated blood is thicker. Plus, with less water content, there is technically less blood overall.

This happens to be why being dehydrated can increase fatigue. Having lower blood volume means that your heart has to work harder to pump your blood to all parts of your body.  

Well, this can make you feel tired. Your heart will require more energy to do its job, so it makes sense!

That fatigue can make it feel like you don’t have the energy to work out, and if you do, you likely won’t push yourself as hard.

I'm sure this comes as no surprise to you, but being hydrated can help counteract this. It can reduce the stress on your cardiovascular system, and in turn, help reduce fatigue.


4. BEING HYDRATED CAN HELP REGULATE YOUR BODY TEMPERATURE

Your body is constantly striving to maintain a steady body temperature. When you are dehydrated, it’s easier for your body temperature to rise too high.

Now think about how that can relate to your workouts. When our body temperature rises too much, we start to sweat to cool off.

However, when you are dehydrated, you’ll stop sweating earlier in order to conserve water. It may sound ideal because not many of us like to sweat ... But now you don’t have much of an ability to lower your body temperature.

This can actually lead to hyperthermia, where your body temperature becomes too hot. If that were to happen, it could potentially be severe!

Hyperthermia can often lead to neurological dysfunction in some way. This can show up as causing seizures, cognitive dysfunction, and can even lead to a coma (7).

Now, these are the more serious consequences in a case of severe dehydration. On top of that, hyperthermia most commonly takes place in hot and humid environments. With that being said though, it’s still very important to be conscious of how hydrated you are.

This is especially true if you’re planning to exercise in the heat! So, if you ever think you should be sweating, but you aren’t, it could be a sign you need to hydrate.


5. BEING HYDRATED IMPROVES COGNITIVE FUNCTION

Not only does proper hydration support your body - it also supports your brain.

Studies show that dehydration of only 2% can hinder your attention span, psychomotor skills, and memory (8).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anything messing with my cognitive ability. Without your brain, what do you have?

My point is, you need to drink water. Your brain and your body need it!

But, now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of hydration, let’s look at how much water you'll need.


HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD YOU DRINK TO STAY HYDRATED?

You’d be surprised how many factors can cause you to lose water daily. Even talking causes your body to lose water over time!

It’s super important that you drink enough water to replace the amount you lose every day. But, how much water should you drink? 

Well, it's recommended that men drink 15.5 cups daily and women drink about 11.5 cups. That equates to 124 oz for men, and 92 oz for women. 

That isn’t necessarily accounting for major fluid loss from exercising in the hot summer sun either. So if you’re sweating a lot, you better be drinking a lot!

Also keep in mind, that not all men are the same, and neither are all women. A 250-pound person will likely need more water than a 150-pound person. 

The bigger you are, the more water you’re going to need every single day.


WHAT DOES DEHYDRATION LOOK LIKE?

If you’re not getting enough water, you will eventually get dehydrated. It really isn’t fun, so be careful if you notice any of these classic signs of dehydration:

- Increased thirst
Food cravings
Headache
Dizziness
Dry mouth
Dry skin (especially when in the heat when you should be sweating)
Bad breath
Dark/Deep yellow urine


HOW TO STAY HYDRATED

Looking for ways to drink more water? It’s pretty simple … You really just need to pay attention to your water intake and make it a priority.

If you always wait until you feel thirsty, stop. The feeling of being thirsty means your body is already dehydrated enough to send you signals to drink water.

Here are some great tips to help you stay hydrated: 

• Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning

• Drink plenty of water before and during your workout

• Track your water intake throughout the day

• Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day to make sure you can drink every hour

• Flavor your water with fruit or a flavor enhancer to make it easier to drink more

• Set reminders throughout the day to drink water if it’s difficult for you

• Enjoy water-rich fruits and vegetables, because it's another way to get extra water


THE BOTTOM LINE: STAY HYDRATED

Overall, proper hydration is crucial. The odds are very high that you wouldn’t last 3 days without water. Trust me, they’d be a miserable 3 days as well!

So, if you want to stay alive, you need water. Obviously, that's me being a little humorous, but it's true. If you want to look, feel, and perform your best too ... then you need to make water a priority.

The more hydrated you are, the healthier your body will be in the long term. That is, of course, so long as you take care of yourself in other areas too.

On top of that, staying hydrated is a crucial component to proper recovery. The same can be said for achieving your fitness goals!

If you are actively pursuing any health or fitness goals, I know it can be hard to know how to see the best results possible. This is especially true when it comes to your workouts and nutrition.

Most people may have an idea of how to see results, but there's also a lot of bad information out there. I've worked with thousands of people as a health and fitness coach, and trust me ... I've found that very few people know exactly how to eat and train when it comes to their goals.

Not only that, but even when you do know, it's hard to make the right decisions all the time. Most people, including me, need support and accountability to stay on track.

That's where the 1st Phorm App can help out!

Inside the 1st Phorm App, we actually set you up with your own certified adviser. Their job is to teach you about nutrition, show you how to reach your goals, and help you stay on track. 

They are your personal coach! You'll even have the ability to track your food, water, and workouts directly in the app!

All you have to do is download the 1st Phorm App today, and let us help you get started!

If you have any questions, reach out to us at any time. We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches who are here to help from 6 AM to 10 PM every day! Just send us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732.


REFERENCES:

(1) Tobias A, Ballard BD, Mohiuddin SS. Physiology, Water Balance. [Updated 2022 Oct 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541059/

(2) Lorenzo I, Serra-Prat M, Yébenes JC. The Role of Water Homeostasis in Muscle Function and Frailty: A Review. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 9;11(8):1857. doi: 10.3390/nu11081857. PMID: 31405072; PMCID: PMC6723611.

(3) Fernández-Elías VE, Ortega JF, Nelson RK, Mora-Rodriguez R. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Sep;115(9):1919-26. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z. Epub 2015 Apr 25. PMID: 25911631.

(4) Nairn, MS, RDN, LDN, Rayven. “Sports and Hydration for Athletes: Q&A with a Dietitian.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 30 Oct. 2023, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/nutrition-and-fitness/sports-and-hydration-for-athletes.

(5) Judge LW, Bellar DM, Popp JK, Craig BW, Schoeff MA, Hoover DL, Fox B, Kistler BM, Al-Nawaiseh AM. Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. J Hum Kinet. 2021 Jul 28;79:111-122. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2021-0065. PMID: 34400991; PMCID: PMC8336541.

(6) López-Torres O, Rodríguez-Longobardo C, Escribano-Tabernero R, Fernández-Elías VE. Hydration, Hyperthermia, Glycogen, and Recovery: Crucial Factors in Exercise Performance-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2023 Oct 19;15(20):4442. doi: 10.3390/nu15204442. PMID: 37892517; PMCID: PMC10610078.

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