Sports + Sweating Playbook V4: Preventing Dehydration
Your body is about 50-70% water and all of its cells, tissues, and organs depend on water to function and survive. Water helps you to get rid of wastes through urination and bowel movements, keep body temperature healthy, lubricate and cushion joints, balance chemicals, protect tissues and organs (including the brain), and generally feel good. Even mild dehydration can make you sluggish, headachy, lightheaded, or worse.
But, everyday you are losing water through sweat (excessive and otherwise), breath, urine, and poop so you need to replace it by drinking and eating fluid-rich foods (about 20% of most people’s fluid intake comes from foods).
On average, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, most women need 11.5 cups (or 2.7 liters) of fluids per day and most men need 15.5 cups (or 3.7 liters) of fluids per day.
A good rule of thumb? Drink whenever you feel thirsty.
But if you sweat excessively (like if you have hyperhidrosis), exercise to a level that causes a lot of sweating, live at or travel to high altitudes, and/or if your community is experiencing hot or humid weather, you likely need to drink even more.
How much more? A formula from the American College of Sports Medicine can help figure that out:
- Add 12 ounces (1.5 cups/350 milliliters) of water to your daily intake for every 30 minutes of exercise you complete or are going to complete.
Your fluid intake is likely adequate if you rarely feel thirsty, your urine is light yellow, and you urinate every 2 to 4 hours.
Want to get more precise? You can also factor in body weight.
- For your baseline, U.S. News & World Report recommends 0.5 ounces (15 milliliters) of water per day for every pound (or ½ kg) you weigh.
- Example: If you weigh 200 pounds (90kg), you’d then need at least 100 ounces (3 liters) of fluids per day. If you exercise for an hour, you’d need to add 24 ounces to that equation for a total of 124 ounces or nearly 4 liters.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research out there about how hyperhidrosis may or may not impact hydration. It seems logical, though, that depending on how many excessive sweating episodes a person has in a day, he or she should adjust normal daily fluid intake to factor that in - adding more fluids on days when excessive sweating is more severe, for example, as well as drinking in response to thirst and monitoring urine color and output (aiming for urination every 2 to 4 hours.)
We have heard of some people with hyperhidrosis attempting to limit fluid intake in the hopes that sweating will decrease as a result. Given how essential water is to the human body and the wide range of consequences of dehydration, this is not recommended.
What about Electrolytes and “Sports” Drinks?
Not only does the human body need water, it also needs electrolytes (minerals) to help hold onto fluids and maintain a proper fluid balance. Electrolytes help regulate blood pressure and muscle contraction and keep the body functioning properly.
Key electrolytes include:
If you lose a significant amount of electrolytes (either through excessive sweating, intense exercise, vomiting, or diarrhea), you can become dehydrated, feel ill, and get muscle cramps, or worse.
Fortunately, most people don’t really need to think about electrolytes because they get them from foods like:
- Dark, leafy greens
But if you’re not sure if you are getting enough, consider this:
Experts say that if you’re working out for an hour or less, hydrating with regular water will suffice.
But if you’re exercising 75 minutes or more (or if it’s very hot out), then an electrolyte drink is a good idea during or after your workout.
You can also check your urine color (see below) and watch for common symptoms of electrolyte imbalances like:
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle cramps
- Increased thirst
- Poor endurance
- Salt cravings
Remember, foods hydrate, too, by adding both water and necessary electrolytes. We already mentioned the electrolyte-rich foods, but the following are also great for a combination of fluid and electrolytes:
- Watermelon and other melons
- Bell peppers
- Skim milk and coconut water (ok, not really foods, but useful nonetheless)
- Broths and soups
- Plain yogurt
- Cottage cheese
What Color is Your Urine?
You can tell a lot about your hydration simply by the color of your urine.
You might be too wet. It is possible to drink too much water and over-hydration can be dangerous. When you take in excessive water, essential electrolyte levels in your blood can drop to dangerous levels. Pregnancy, medications (including diuretics) and medical conditions (like diabetes and kidney or liver issues) can also be linked to clear urine. If you’ve been drinking a lot of water, especially in a short amount of time, cut back, add electrolytes, and see if your urine returns to a more normal light yellow/straw color. If your urine remains consistently clear, check in with your doctor.
Shades of yellow from pale straw to transparent yellow
See-through yellow is considered the “normal” urine color, from pale straw to deeper, transparent shades. The intensity of your yellow will vary depending on how much water and other hydrating fluids you are drinking. The more you hydrate, the more dilute the pigments in your urine will become, resulting in a lighter and lighter color. But don’t overdo it (see “Clear” above).
Amber or honey
Amber, dark or honey-colored urine can be a sign of severe dehydration. Try drinking more healthy liquids and keep the weather and your level of activity in mind. If it’s hot and/or you are engaged in strenuous activity, you’ll need more fluids. If urine continues to be dark, talk to your doctor as dark urine can also be a sign of medical concerns needing attention.
We hope this information helps you stay hydrated and healthy while you exercise and play sports no matter your hyperhidrosis episodes!
Ready to learn more about sports and sweating?
Check out our Sports + Sweating Playbook Volume 1 for tips to keep athletic gear drier and healthier for the skin.
For our many readers in the Southern Hemisphere who are in winter – read Volume 2 for information on avoiding frostbite, hypothermia and the damp chill of sweaty cold-weather workouts.
In Volume 3, we covered hyperhidrosis treatments for athletes and sports lovers.
As always, you can use our Clinician Finder to help find informed hyperhidrosis treatment and shop our Fan Fave Products page for discounts on high-powered antiperspirants, iontophoresis devices, sweat-busting clothing and shoe inserts, and body coolers. You’ll be saving money, finding products to make your life easier, and supporting innovative companies that care about hyperhidrosis, and support our work. #EveryoneWins