Water: How Much You Need for Optimal Performance

When planning to work out, train or compete for an event, many athletes focus on their carbohydrates and protein. While these nutrients are important for health and performance, the most essential nutrient that helps with health and performance is often an afterthought: water.

Why We Need Water

On average, adults are made up of about 60 percent water. All our tissues are comprised, in part, of water—including blood, bones, joints, muscle and fat.

Among its many roles in the body, water helps regulate body temperature. When body temperature rises, the blood vessels in the skin dilate or expand, allowing blood to flow near the surface and releasing heat. Sweat is also produced, which further helps to cool the body.

More: What the Taste of Your Sweat Tells You About Your Eating Habits

The Various Sources of Water

While the beverages you consume are composed of water including coffee, tea, juice, milk and even soda, you also get fluids from other sources. Virtually all foods contain water.

Fruits and vegetables contain a large amount of water (tomatoes and watermelon are over 90 percent water). But other foods contain water, as well, including grains, dairy foods and meats.

More: 6 Best Hydrating Foods for Athletes

To realize the dietary sources of water, compare the difference between a slice of bread and a piece of toast, dry pasta and cooked pasta, and beef jerky and sirloin. Which foods have more water?

Planning Your Intake

Everyone—regardless of activity level—should focus on staying well hydrated throughout the week, every day. But active people should focus on hydration well before the activity begins.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming 16 ounces (about 500 ml) of fluid two hours prior to exercise to ensure adequate hydration. If it is a warm day, consume an additional 8 to 16 ounces (250 to 500 ml) about 30 to 60 minutes before your activity.

More: 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes

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