Hydration Guidelines for Optimal Performance and Recovery

Sara is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist for the YMCA. In 2018, Sara was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue her dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).  Her monthly blog posts feature evidence-based nutrition information, healthy recipes, and member Q&As. 

In this blog post, we explore the crucial role of hydration in performance and recovery. From pre-workout strategies to post-workout replenishment, read on to unlock the power of hydration and elevate your workouts to the next level. Let’s dive in!

Pre-Workout: To kickstart your workout, aim to drink 16 ounces of water within the 2-4 hours leading up to exercise. This simple step sets the stage for better performance and faster recovery.

Mid-Workout: Stay hydrated by consuming 8-16 ounces of water per hour. The specific amount will vary based on factors like body size, intensity of exercise, and environmental conditions. Larger-bodied individuals or those in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or hot and humid environments should aim for the higher range. In contrast, smaller-bodied individuals or those engaged in low to moderate-intensity exercise in cooler conditions may find the lower end of the range sufficient. Pay attention to your body’s cues and adjust accordingly.

What About Sports Drinks? You may have wondered whether sports drinks are necessary for your hydration routine. The research suggests specific situations where sports drinks can offer performance benefits over plain water. If your sweat session falls into any of the following categories, switching water for a sports drink may boost performance:

  • Endurance events that last longer than 60 minutes.
  • High-intensity exercise sessions lasting 30 minutes or more.
  • Exercising in hot and humid conditions.
  • Participating in back-to-back workouts with less than 12 hours to recover between.

Outside of these specific situations, plain water is usually sufficient for rehydration. Keep these guidelines in mind and tailor your hydration strategy to the demands of your workout.

Post-Workout: Congratulations, you’ve crushed your workout! Now, let’s talk about post-workout hydration. Rehydrating with water is usually sufficient if you have a minimum of 12 hours before your next strenuous workout. If you engage in back-to-back training sessions with less than 12 hours between, a sports drink can speed your recovery by rapidly replacing electrolytes lost during exercise.

Hydration plays a vital role in your overall performance and recovery. By prioritizing workout hydration, you’re giving your body the fuel to recover faster, both mentally and physically, so you’re ready to take on future challenges.  

A Hydrating Recipe…

Check out this tasty, budget-friendly sports drink that will keep you fueled and give you the edge to perform your best!

Homemade Sports Drink by Sara Dow


  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¼ cup orange juice (bottled juice is fine)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (I like freshly squeezed but use what you have!)
  • 3 ½ cups cold water


Dissolve salt and sugar in hot (tap) water.  Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and water.  Stir well.  Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Tip: Freeze leftover orange juice in an ice cube tray and thaw for use next time.

Yield: 32 ounces

Note: This recipe offers the electrolyte-replenishing benefits of a commercial sports drink without the added colors and fillers. The best part? It costs mere pennies per serving, allowing you to save money while supporting your hydration needs. Cheers to saving money and feeling your best! 😊 

Check out this Resource… 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.  Check out the Academy website for evidence-based information and resources on various topics, including hydration and exercise nutrition.

Website: https://www.eatright.org/

About Sara Dow

Want to level up your nutrition?  Register for a One-On-One Performance Nutrition Workshop with Sara. In this 60-minute session, Sara will provide evidence-based guidelines for pre- and post-workout nutrition specific to your goals, healthy recipes, and practical tips for incorporating real foods into your diet to support optimal performance and recovery. Click here to register today! 

Have a question? Drop Sara a line at [email protected].