How To Maximize Your Post-Workout Hydration

Water makes up 70% to 80% of your body weight, so every tissue and organ in your body needs an adequate supply of water to function smoothly, per Mayo Clinic. This is even truer after you've exerted yourself through physical activity and lost a lot of fluids. Hydration and fitness are inseparable, so athletes always drink water before, during, and after a workout to compensate for the fluids they lose when they sweat. Even mild dehydration, or a body water loss of 1% to 2%, can weaken your cognitive performance, such as your attention span, memory, and reaction time, a 2013 study in the ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal finds.


When your water levels fall below the normal or healthy level, you might experience complications of dehydration such as fatigue, muscle cramps, dry mouth, dark-colored pee, and nausea, athletic trainer Nichole Reynolds tells Banner Health. Dehydration also slows down the recovery of the tears in our muscles and decreases our athletic performance. To keep your body hydrated and functioning as it should, you're recommended to guzzle double the amount of water your body loses during exercise. For instance, you should compensate for each pound lost with 16 to 24 ounces of water. But is chugging water the only way to stay hydrated? It turns out there are other ways to maximize your post-workout hydration aside from water consumption.


Make up for the lost electrolytes

Turns out, water is not the only thing in your sweat that you need to replenish after a sweaty exercise, so you can't rely on drinking water alone for hydration. Aside from fluids, your sweat is made up of minerals called electrolytes, which include sodium, magnesium, calcium chloride, and bicarbonate, dietitian Holley Samuel tells SELF. According to MedlinePlus, electrolytes are responsible for keeping your body water balanced, stabilizing your body's pH level, and transporting nutrients into your cells. Throughout the day, especially during exercise, your body loses and uses up its reserve of electrolytes. The key to hydration is balance, so you need to replenish your fluids and electrolytes.


A great way to get electrolytes into your body is to guzzle drinks rich in this mineral. Some electrolyte-rich powerhouses to add to your post-workout menu are organic coconut water, cow's milk, sports drinks such as Gatorade, Pedialyte, Powerade, or water infused with electrolyte tablets.

Eat food that are high in water content

To keep your body hydrated through food, consume nourishments high in water content, such as raw fruits and veggies. Therefore, a diet rich in organic produce is an excellent way to boost your water absorption while nourishing your body with nutritious vitamins and minerals, UCLA Health advises. Any fruits and vegetables with water content over 80% are an excellent choice for your post-workout diet. Some fruits that provide an abundant hydration source are lettuce, celery, cucumbers, apples, summer squash, and watermelon.


Don't hesitate to reach for one cup of plain yogurt or two for a tasty yet low-calorie post-workout pick-me-up. According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, one cup of plain yogurt contains 88% water coupled with a decent amount of protein. Toss in single-ingredient upgrades such as shredded coconut rice, granola, or berries for extra flavor and fiber. If your workout ends near dinner time, a hearty, tummy-warming bowl of soup or broth made of different veggies, such as asparagus, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions, can also leave you feeling recharged and stave off the cold while increasing your water intake.

Take oral rehydration salt tablets

Taking oral rehydration salt tablets is also a quick fix to dehydration and gives the body what it needs to recover from an intensive workout. The Health Navigator says oral rehydration salts combine salt-based electrolytes and sugar-based carbohydrates mixed in water. When you suffer dehydration from gastroenteritis, diarrhea, or vomiting, you can take them to replenish the salts and water your body loses.


Unlike other sugary drinks you consume to replace the water and electrolyte reserves you have used up, the proportion of salts and sugar in an oral rehydration salt tablet matches what your body needs to recover, making it a much more efficient source of energy for post-workout hydration. Plus, these hydration tablets are easy to throw into the gym bag. When you need an energy boost before or after physical activity, Wiggle recommends adding one or two tablets into 500 milliliterss water and consuming the mixture.

Ingest sports drinks if you exercise rigorously

Sports drinks are also a recommended alternative to water when it comes to replenishing fluids and electrolytes lost during intensive exercise and improving tolerance. Containing electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride and added ingredients such as vitamins and flavors, sports drinks make an excellent choice for quick hydration, absorption, and longer fluid retention, according to Sports Dietitians Australia.


Having said that, let's not forget that ready-made sports drinks contain a certain amount of added sugar and redundant calories. Therefore, they are only recommended for those who exercise vigorously for at least an hour or sweat profusely during exercise, according to Better Health Channel. Consuming excessive sports drinks, particularly when not engaging in strenuous activity, might raise your chance of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and gout. If your exercises are short and low-intensity, you might as well stick to water or organic, calorie-free alternatives.

Curb your sugar cravings with pressed sugarcane juice

Sugarcane, high in water content with approximately 15% sucrose and 15% fiber, is a go-to drink for post-workout hydration and a quick energy boost. According to WebMD, sugarcane juice strengthens kidneys, promotes healthy urination, reduces inflammation, and protects your body from overheating. This no-fat tonic can also be used as a laxative and an antiseptic to boost digestion, clean wounds, and inhibit bacterial growth. Sugarcane juice can aid in reducing sweet cravings and help you lose weight since it has a natural sweetness.


The best time to drink sugarcane juice is shortly after an exercise since it may instantly ramp up your body's hydration and energy levels. However, overconsumption of anything is not good, including sugarcane juice. According to Sugarcane WNY, limiting your sugarcane juice intake to no more than 16 ounces is wise. If you have diabetes or blood sugar issues, you might want to give this sweet drink a pass and opt for low-sugar alternatives.

Indulge in thick and creamy smoothies

Sipping a glass of smoothies is also a tasty way to end your workout session on a hydrating, power-packed note. Since smoothies are liquid-based and come with a host of macronutrients, they are easier to digest compared to whole foods options and thus boost post-workout recovery rate, Go Good points out. Additionally, smoothies can temporarily satisfy a person's hunger and keep their appetite under control.


What's interesting about smoothies is that you can load up on nutrients while experimenting with multiple flavors and textures of different fruits, veggies, and yogurts in one sitting. For instance, you can throw a host of fruits and veggies with high water content into the blender. You can take the page out of Mary Makes Good's recipes and make hydration smoothies with berries, watermelon, cucumber, and avocado with coconut water at the base. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for tropical flavors such as banana and mango, and top your puree with nutty cacao powder.

Enjoy a glass of chocolate milk

This may sound counterintuitive, but chocolate milk might be what the doctor ordered for post-workout hydration, muscle recovery, and bone strengthening, not to mention that it is delicious. According to Built With Chocolate Milk, chocolate milk provides the same electrolytes found in other commercial recovery drinks, including calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. These electrolytes aid in balancing body fluids, helping you rehydrate and overcome fatigue after an intensive workout. 


Because it also contains vitamins, proteins, lipids, flavonoids, carbs, and carbohydrates, chocolate milk helps speed up the healing of muscles and the liver. It is a fantastic option for athletes recovering from demanding physical activities. According to a 2019 analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chocolate milk increases perceived exertion, or the degree of physical discomfort experienced during exercise, as well as time to exhaustion (TTE), a measure used in exercise physiology to assess athletic tolerance.

Drink water regularly during exercise

To stave off dehydration, don't wait until after your workout to drink water to compensate for the fluids you lose. During exercises, consume 120 to 150 ml, equivalent to 4 to 5 ounces of water every 10 to 15 minutes, per University of Utah Health. The reason is that as long as you're sweating, you need to drink fluids to keep yourself hydrated, as dehydration can reduce your concentration and compromise the quality of your exercise. Drinking water during exercise also reduces the risk of heat exhaustion and heat strokes, characterized by a sudden rise in your body's core temperature and heart rate.


To prevent overhydration, don't drink more than the amount of fluids you lose; use your urine color as a guide, U.S. News Health points out. For instance, if your urine is light yellow, you're good. If it's dark, that means you need to consume more water. If your urine has a clearer color, you're probably drinking too much and need to cut back on fluids. You don't have to wait until you're thirsty to drink water, but try to consume fluids slowly in small mouthfuls to avoid overloading your kidney. The general rule of thumb is not to drink more than one liter of fluid per hour.