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Do I Really Need to Drink Water When I Work Out?

You want to build muscle and lose weight without stroking out, don't you?

When it comes to working out, we’re not all strongmen like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (aka The Mountain). In fact, many of us could go our entire lives and still not know our lat pull-downs from our incline benches from our deadlifts. Which is to say, there’s no shame in not knowing your way around a gym, or how to start the process of getting in shape. Plus, that’s what we’re here for — to make sure that when you’re at the gym, you at least never have to sweat the small stuff.

I’m wondering about water. I don’t typically bring any with me to the gym, since I rarely feel thirsty when I’m there, and I find it annoying schlepping my water bottle from machine to machine. So how important is water, really, when I’m working out?
Bro? Brooooo. Water is important — both in terms of existing, and at the gym. Let’s start with the obvious: Despite what hydro-haters may think, you really do need water to live. This is what your dad would call “a fact of life.” Water is essential because it helps keep your organs healthy, helps with digestion, and to the question at hand, helps both regulate your body temperature and keeps you from becoming dehydrated.

Meet the Hydro-Haters: The People Who Refuse to Drink Water, No Matter What

When you workout, you sweat, which is your body’s physiological response to energy being burned and thus, generating heat. Sweat keeps your body cool, because sweat evaporates, transferring heat from your skin into the air. Sweat also requires water to work, as it’s mostly water, and if you’re dehydrated, you’re going to have problems sweating — and by the transitive property, regulating your temp. Too hot and your body becomes hyperthermic, which is when you begin to get cramps, headaches and fatigued. I don’t need to explain to you that, besides hyperthermia and dehydration being potentially life-threatening events, trying to get your lift on while you’re battling cramps and fatigue isn’t going to help you operate at peak athletic performance.

And besides all the basic reasons you should be drinking water while you workout, consider the aesthetic reasons, too. That is, water can assist with weight loss by helping you maintain a healthy metabolism and breaking down fat deposits as well as helping you build muscle thanks to its role in protein and glycogen formation.

So now that we’ve covered why you should drink water when you’re working out, the question now becomes, how much water should you be drinking? According to the professionals, the first thing you should do is drink a lot of water throughout the day, every day. “Get on a schedule of drinking water all day, but especially in the morning, after a workout and in the evening,” says Jeff Jalaba, a personal trainer in L.A. “Normally, 64 ounces per day or more should do the trick, depending on your level of activity on a particular day.” If you’re busy and forget to adhere to a strict water-drinking schedule, absolutely drink a bottle of water one or two hours before going to the gym.

“If you’re dehydrated going into a workout, the body doesn’t have the energy to hydrate itself, and that can cause cramping,” explains Jalaba. Once you’re at the gym, maintain your hydration levels by drinking eight ounces (or about a standard glass’ worth) every 15 minutes or so to replace any liquids you’ll lose to sweat, and don’t forget to drink even more once your workout is over.