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Habit forming: hydration

“Think of muscles needing to be hydrated like beef jerky that’s been dried out; it can tear very easily,” says Bethany Snodgrass, holistic health coach and operations manager at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in New York City. “Properly hydrated muscles are more like filet mignon, which bounces back and has a lower likelihood of tearing.”

“For active people, the general recommendation for total water intake throughout the day is one-half to one fluid ounce per pound of body weight,” says Jonathan Dick, Equinox’s London-based nutrition education lead, Tier X coach, and Equinox Fitness Training Institute master instructor. “A  person who weighs 150 pounds should be taking 12.5 to 25 cups per day. The harder they work out, I’d recommend the higher end of the spectrum.” 

If you find it tough to sip enough water, employ these habits:

First water, then coffee.

Drink 16 to 32 ounces of water within an hour or two of waking, recommends Dick. Keep a water glass next to the coffee maker to remind yourself to sip before you brew. “You’ve gone a long time overnight without, and your body is dehydrated,” Dick says. 

Set a hydration reminder on your phone to go off every hour.

“When I was personal training, I’d have my bottle with me [and] grab water every few minutes,” Snodgrass says. “At my desk, I need cues to drink water.” People who spend a lot of time in air conditioning or heating may need to hydrate more often because the dry air can be dehydrating. 

Use the scale as a post-workout hydration tool. 

If you sweat a lot, you can weigh yourself before and after to find out how much to rehydrate. “The weight lost will be all water, and that will allow you to calculate how much you should drink after training,” Dick says. “You want to drink 150 percent of the water lost in training within the hour following your workout.” So, if you lose two pounds during exercise, you should drink 24 ounces of water.  If your workout lasts 90 minutes or longer, you may need to replace electrolytes, in the form of tablets or powders, in addition to water.

Drink on the go. 

Every time you stand up to go to the bathroom or walk to a conference room or to lunch, make it a habit to take a few sips of water. “If you take in water when you’re sitting, it just goes through your digestive system,” Snodgrass says. “But if you take in water while moving—going outside, going up and down stairs, squatting—that water is going to transition into your muscles and tissues and not just into your digestive system.”

Check your urine. 

Experts suggest checking the color of your urine to determine whether you’re well-hydrated. “Pale yellow is a good indication of hydration,” says Snodgrass. If you’ve been chugging water quickly and notice clear urine, though, the water might not be fully absorbing, but simply passing through your system. Instead, take slower, smaller sips over an extended period of time.