How Much Water Should Athletes Drink?

Your body uses water for a wide variety of purposes and you cannot live without it. If you are an athlete, you easily lose this vital fluid through intense activity, whether during practice or an actual event. While everyone needs to stay adequately hydrated, it is particularly important for athletes before, during and after bouts of activity. The amount of water an athlete needs depends on many factors such as weather conditions, size and intensity of exercise. Many professional organizations affiliated with athletics have general hydration guidelines.

Hydrating Before Activity

Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours prior to physical activity. Drink another 16 ounces about 30 minutes before the activity.

During Physical Activity

To optimize performance and reduce the risk of dehydration, you should drink adequate amounts of water during bouts of activity, whether training or during an event. You should drink 4 ounces every 10 to 15 minutes. Stick to chilled water -- your body will utilize it faster and it will help keep your body temperature in check. Professional panels, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, have established a general rule of thumb -- about three to six ounces of water for every 20 minutes of exercise 1.

Post-Activity Water Consumption

After a workout or event, drink at least enough water to replenish what was lost during exertion. You can determine how much water to drink afterwards by weighing yourself before and after you exercise. For each pound lost, drink 16 ounces of water.

Considerations for Sports Drinks

While water consumption takes on primary importance, you also lose sodium and other minerals through excessive sweating. Sports drinks can help replenish these stores during practice and games. These drinks also contain rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates that replenish stores of glycogen, a form of sugar that serves as your muscles' primary source of energy.