How Much Water Should Weight Lifters Drink?

Looking at many bodybuilding websites -- particularly those affiliated with supplement companies -- may give you the impression that the extent of weightlifting nutrition comes down to prioritizing protein shakes. However, there is much more to the picture than that; as with other sports, weightlifting requires you to remain hydrated for optimal performance. Because the consequences of inadequate water intake are dire, you can't afford to be uninformed as to proper water intake.

Risks of Inadequate Water Intake

Just as eating too little while engaging in an exercise program can be dangerous, so can drinking too little. In addition to making you feel light-headed and promoting fainting during your workout, drinking too little may cause cramps, heat stroke, seizures due to electrolyte imbalance, shock due to low blood volume, cerebral swelling, kidney failure, and even coma or death.

Danger of Overconsumption

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While the risk of dehydration may be more often discussed than the risk of drinking too much water, the latter is still dangerous. Drinking too much water can cause a condition called hyponatremia, in which your blood is diluted due to an excessive amount of water. The excess water leads to insufficient levels of salt in your blood, which encourages water to enter your cells in large volumes, prompting headache, vomiting, fatigue, nausea, mental disorientation and even brain swelling and death.

General Daily Recommendations

According to the United States Food and Nutrition Board, women should consume 91 ounces of water each day, while men should consume 125 ounces. The board recommends that 80 percent of the water comes from drinks, while 20 percent comes from food. These recommendations do not include the extra amount required to compensate for weight lifting, but it is important to ensure you consume at least this baseline amount if you are going to be active later in the day.

Workout Recommendations

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In addition to the water you consume to meet daily goals, the American Council on Exercise recommends you drink 17 to 20 ounces of water about two hours before your workout. You should also drink 8 ounces of water within half an hour prior to and after your workout, and about 8 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during the weightlifting session. If you lose weight during your workout, drink 26 to 24 ounces of water per pound lost.