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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

Hydration & Exercise by Stephen Coleman MISCP

As we are finally blessed with some good weather, people will notice the obvious effects on thirst when playing sports or exercising.
However, thirst should not be the primary indicator for hydrating when being active, or during normal day to day activities for that matter.

Generally we know that staying hydrated is important for sports and exercise. Some reasons are that dehydration has been shown to have marked effects on performance measures like power and force production, speed, co-ordination and endurance.

Dehydration makes the circulatory system work harder to achieve the same level of work which can lead to exhaustion earlier than if the body was optimally hydrated.

What is optimal hydration?

During exercise it is considered to be the loss of less than 2-3% of body mass through sweat.
This may not seem like a lot but in hot weather conditions this can be reached especially quickly.

Ways in which you can keep your body optimally hydrated is to drink fluids prior to feeling thirsty. Ideally it is recommended to have at least 500-600ml 2-3 hours before beginning exercise and 200-300ml throughout if possible. Of course there are lots of variables in how easy or not this is to achieve based on each person and what exercise they are doing. These can be intrinsic factors like body size, composition and thirst drive or exercise type, intensity and duration, and of course the weather.


Something to keep in mind when trying to stay hydrated is avoiding hyperhydration – too much fluid intake.

Taking in too much fluids can flush electrolytes from the body and actually be harmful to performance. On an average day 2-3 litres is enough, varying slightly for individual needs. Overall maintaining optimal hydration can positively affect performance and help reduce potential injury risk and although it can take some planning, it's important and definitely worth it for exercising during hot weather days like today.

By Stephen Coleman, Chartered Physiotherapist

If yo would like to book an appointment with Stephen, or any of our therapists, you can contact the office on 091 569706 or email 

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