Whether you are on a sports team or in a dance troupe, or whether you work out at a gym, attend exercise classes, or routinely exercise around your home, you are being athletic. You probably know the importance of staying hydrated, but you could still be doing it wrong. Here are a few tips to ensure that you not only stay hydrated, but that you are drinking what and when you should to optimize your hydration.

When to Drink

It is important that you do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink. You need to start the exercise session well hydrated. Drink a couple glasses of water a few hours before you begin. Once you start working out, you should have something to drink about every 20 minutes. After you are done with the session, you need to drink more to replenish all the liquid you lost.

One way of being sure you get enough to drink is to weigh yourself before and after the session. You might be surprised that there is a weight loss after. For every pound you lost, you should drink three cups of an athletic hydration drink. While you don't need to get it all in at once, you should be mindful of it and try to get it in over the next couple of hours.

What to Drink

There is a risk of dehydration from exercising because you sweat. You will sweat less if you are exercising in a cool, ventilated gym than you would if you were outside on a hot day, but you will still sweat. Since sweat is comprised of water, salt, chloride, potassium, sugar, and other minerals, it is important to replace these to avoid feeling ill and weak. This is why sports drinks were invented.

Water is the best thing to drink before you start to exercise, but during and after your workout, you should drink something that will maintain the salt in your body, as well as the electrolytes. Make sure that your drink contains roughly 15 grams of carbs and 100 mg of sodium per 1 cup serving. Then check for added electrolytes and minerals to help replenish what you lost.

If you wait until you feel thirsty to get something to drink, you may end up feeling nauseous, having a headache, and getting muscle cramps. It is harder to replenish your fluids and key minerals than it is to try to maintain them. If you wait until you are done and chug a few sports drinks, you could end up over-hydrating. This can be just as serious as dehydrating. Without proper hydration, you could end up in the hospital.