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How Much Water Should an Athlete Drink? A Guide to Hydration

how much water does an athlete need

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

As an athlete, you’ve had that drilled into your head since day one.

And since water makes up more than half your body weight, you know it’s important.

But have you ever wondered exactly how much water you should be drinking before, during, and after your workouts?

We are here to explain why hydration is so important and how much water athletes should be drinking.

Table of Contents

how much water should an athlete drink

Why Proper Hydration is So Important For Athletes

You already know that staying hydrated is an important key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

But did you know that what you drink, and how much, not only affects your health but can also affect your performance as an athlete?.

Let’s take a look at why hydration is so critical and at the recommended daily water intake for athletes.

Combat Dehydration

You know you want to avoid dehydration at all costs, but what causes it in the first place?

Many factors contribute to our bodies heading down the road towards dehydration:

  • Exercising intensely without maintaining the necessary hydration
  • Sweating excessively 
  • Exercising in temps that are extremely hot or cold
  • The altitude at which you are exercising
  • Your diet

And avoiding dehydration is a huge deal because it can lead to all sorts of issues within your body including:

  • A reduction in blood volume
  • A decreased rate of sweating 
  • An increase in your core body temperature
  • An increased rate of glycogen use in your muscles
  • Decreased skin blood flow 
  • An increased tendency towards muscle cramps

According to Runner’s World Magazine, a loss of as little as 2% of your body weight can pose a threat to your health.

While we know that excessive thirst can be a signal of dehydration, many of the warning signs have nothing to do with thirst and may include:

  • Muscle cramping 
  • Constipation 
  • Craving sweets
  • A decrease in urination
  • Dizziness

Therefore, it’s best to think about your body as a whole unit when monitoring for signs of dehydration.

Increase Performance

Can hydration affect an athlete’s performance?

It sure can.

Maintaining peak hydration:

  • Replaces water lost through sweating
  • Improves your body’s blood flow and circulation
  • Provides the ultimate delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles
  • Removes the accumulated waste and metabolic by-products from your muscles

A 2012 study printed in Oxford Academics found that by “maintaining a well-hydrated state during exercise by drinking small amounts of fluid, exercise performance impairment due to dehydration can be abated.”

And if you are serious about increasing your performance, you’re in the right place.

Our personal trainers at In Motion O.C. can help you:

  • Set your own fitness goals
  • Get the results you’ve always dreamed of
  • Avoid injuries
  • Stay accountable to your fitness plan

We even offer a free consultation with no strings attached.

How Much Water Should an Athlete Drink a Day?

There are all sorts of suggestions floating around regarding just how much an athlete should hydrate.

Is it best to “drink to thirst?

Or is it true that, once you have reached the point of feeling thirsty, you’re already on the road to dehydration?

Just how much water does an athlete need?

The truth is, it’s important to stay hydrated all the time, not just when you’re working out.

Recommended Daily Water Intake For Athletes

As an athlete, you understand that it’s critically important to drink water.

But just how much water should an athlete drink a day?

When it comes to the recommended daily water intake for athletes, the truth is that it depends on factors such as:

  • Your body type
  • Your gender
  • Your weight and body size
  • Your height
  • The type of exercise you’re engaging in
  • Your age
  • Your athletic ability
  • The weather conditions
  • Time of day you are exercising 
  • Your sweat level
  • What other drinks you consume throughout the day

With so many things to consider, determining the recommended daily water intake for athletes sounds pretty overwhelming.

But check this out.

This nifty hydration calculator takes all the guesswork out of deciding your hydration needs.

Simply input your relevant details and this handy tool lets you know your recommended daily water intake.

For athletes, this is an invaluable way to help you make sure you stay right on track with your hydration needs.

Now that we understand just how important it is to remain hydrated, let’s take a look at just how much water should an athlete drink throughout each phase of exercise.

how much water should an athlete drink daily

Before Exercise

The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17- 20 fluid ounces of water 2-3 hours prior to exercising as well as an additional 8 fluid ounces around 20-30 minutes before beginning your workout.

And if you’re wondering what to eat pre-workout, here are some recommendations from the experts at In Motion O.C.

During Exercise

How much water should an athlete drink during a workout?

Should you take a break in the middle of your Zumba class to rehydrate?

According to The National Strength and Conditioning Association, the answer is yes.

To prevent excessive fluid and electrolyte loss, they recommend that athletes follow these guidelines during their exercise routines:

Drink 3 to 8 ounces of a 6% to 8% carb-electrolyte beverage every 10 to 20 minutes during any exercise lasting longer than 60 to 90 minutes.

After Exercise

After exercising, your goal is to replenish all the fluids and electrolytes lost during your workout.

While rehydrating with water is important, there are also a number of fruits and veggies that have a high water content and are a fantastic addition to any post-workout routine:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Kiwi

And here are a few mouth-watering smoothies you can try.

How Much Water Should an Athlete Drink When Resting?

We’ve determined that it is important to rehydrate your body after exercise.

But how much should an athlete drink a day when they’re taking a rest day or during longer periods when they aren’t being physically active?

Is it best to cut back on your water intake since you’re not exerting yourself?


Staying hydrated on your days off is just as important as sustaining peak hydration during a workout.

Maintaining your water intake on off days will go a long way toward avoiding muscle cramps and keeping your joints and muscles well-lubricated.

The standard recommendation is to consume around 8 to 9 cups of water on your days off and to drink enough so that your urine is a pale yellow color.

Hydration Tips:

Is it a struggle to remember to get in all of your water for the day?

Here are some ideas that are sure to help:

  • Drink a big glass of water first thing each morning.
  • If you get tired of plain water, add some cucumber slices or strawberries to give it a whole new twist.
  • Set a timer to remind you to drink.
  • Purchase one of those nifty motivational water bottles with time markers to help track your daily intake.

How Much Water is Too Much For an Athlete?

You can never drink enough water, right?

Actually, an athlete can drink too much water.

And over-hydrating may be even more harmful to your body than under hydrating.

Water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, can result when a person consumes excess water without taking in an adequate amount of sodium.

This throws the body’s electrolyte balance into a tailspin and may result in serious damage to the body’s organs, including your:

  • Kidneys
  • Brain
  • Heart

For this reason, it can be a good idea for each individual to get a clear picture of just how much water their body needs each day.

How to Estimate Your Fluid Loss After a Workout

Keep in mind that along with the fluid you lose during a workout, you also lose electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals including:

  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

If you are doing a hardcore workout it may be a good idea for you to weigh yourself before and after your exercise routine.

Of course, it’s recommended that you do this sans clothing since sweat-soaked workout clothes can be heavy and can throw off your results.

And if you want to take your hydration to a whole other level, you can even measure the rate at which you sweat when you’re working out.

This can be super-helpful if you’re trying to determine how much, and what type of liquids you’ll need to drink during your workouts and events.

Easy Ways to Increase Your Hydration

Is there more to hydration than just drinking water?

You bet there is.

Here are a few simple tips for increasing your overall hydration and for helping you get in the recommended daily water intake for athletes:

  • Keep a water bottle handy at all times, whether you’re running 5 miles or relaxing with your favorite book. 
  • Drink consistently throughout the day as opposed to consuming all of your water in one or two gigantic gulps. 
  • Avoid caffeine. Since it acts as a diuretic, drinks containing caffeine can contribute to dehydration by causing you to lose fluids. But no need to worry. If you stick to 1 to 2 cups per day you should be just fine.
  • Stay away from alcoholic beverages. 
  • Choose foods that have high water content.
  • Be selective about your sports drinks. They are best consumed during long-term exercise. And remember to be sure to choose a drink that contains carbs, sodium, and potassium.

how much water does an athlete need

Ready to Kick Your Performance Up a Notch? In Motion O.C. is Ready to Help

Staying hydrated is critical for optimum performance, but so is proper training.

That’s where In Motion O.C. shines.

We are the experts when it comes to physical therapy and fitness coaching.

Whether you’re just starting Couch to 5k or training for the Boston Marathon, we have the expertise needed to help you increase your performance and take your fitness to a whole new level.

Schedule a Free Fitness Consult Today

At In Motion O.C., we offer you a free fitness consultation appointment with one of our licensed physical therapists.

And there is absolutely no obligation.

Your fitness consult allows us to determine the source of your issues and recommend a treatment plan that is crafted with your personal needs in mind.

One of our Patient Service Representatives will also be available during this time to go over your insurance benefits and provide you with information regarding your coverage, as well as any alternative options outside of insurance.

Get in touch with us at In Motion O.C. today to schedule your free consultation.

We can’t wait to work with you.

In Motion O.C.