Is your performance lagging and your workout dragging? Well you might not be properly hydrated. Read up on these reasons why you should drink up before you jettison your training program.

Metroflex Gym is considered the modern Mecca of bodybuilding. Champion bodybuilders Ronnie Coleman and Branch Warren have trained within its walls, crafting physiques that earn the admiration of millions of fans and their fellow competitors. But we forget that Metroflex, which is located in the heart of Texas where temperatures during the summer can easily eclipse 100 degrees, isn’t air conditioned.

It isn’t like Brian Dobson can’t afford to install central air. It’s kept that way so only people with intestinal fortitude—hardcore bodybuilders, focused powerlifters, and serious athletes—stick around. The people who aren’t as dedicated and don’t appreciate training hard can drive down the road to Bally’s or 24-Hour Fitness, where they can enjoy daytime television between their sets of machine bench presses in a climate-controlled environment instead of seeing people with unshakable dedication regularly rip 600- and 700-lb raw deadlifts off the floor during their lunch break.

For the Metroflex brethren or for people sweating it out in their garage gyms, hydration is vitally important. They know this. People who don’t properly hydrate become quickly accosted by impeded performance. Dehydration, which occurs when fluid intake doesn't sufficiently replete fluid losses, can cause decrements in performance as low as one percent of one’s body weight. The hulking 250-lb bodybuilder busting his ass off in the squat rack, literally, may notice decreased performance at a weight loss as little as two and a half pounds. It's at this loss that the osmoreceptors, sensory receptors that detect changes in cellular fluid balance located in our hypothalamus, trigger the thirst sensation, which serves as an early warning to rehydrate. Things worsen beyond one percent, and everything with the exception of contracting a venereal disease can occur.

Here’s a continuum of the bad things that can happen to you—dry mouth, fatigue, thirst, headache, constipation, decreased focus/mental acuity, extreme thirst, extremely dry skin so devoid of water in the dermis that it sticks up when pinched, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing (rapid and subcostal), fever, delirium, unconsciousness, coma, and death. In addition, your first fantasy football pick will shred every ligament in his knee on his first play of the season, which can spoil your workplace football cred and bragging rights. This can be worse than death. Dehydrated individuals are predisposed to rhabdomyolysis, hyperthermia, and heat stroke.

Let’s focus on not going beyond one percent unless you’re really stupid or decide to vacation in a developing nation and gulp handfuls of water in one of its tributaries and come down with cholera. Grab a pen, a piece of paper, pull up a chair, and take notes. Or more conveniently, print out this list of knowledge bombs.

1. Dress appropriately. If you’re training at Metroflex during the summer, it wouldn’t be wise to hit the stepper while wearing your winter garb consisting of sweats to hide the Tony Siragusa-esque fatness you’ve acquired over the holidays. Also, to the high school football players out there, “cold gear” is to be worn in the cold, not the heat! Read the tags of the compression gear you're purchasing and save them. Refer to the instructions while you suit up for practice. Also, to all the Goth kids out there, you’re still going to sweat your pasty, sub-triple digit ass off while you chain smoke your cigarettes wearing a trench coat during the summer as you wait for mommy outside to pick you up from the mall. But the trench coat wearers may be good because they might have acclimatized, which brings us to number two.

2. Allow yourself to adapt to the heat. Someone who trains in an air-conditioned Gold’s Gym won’t be able to hit the ground running when training at Metroflex for the first time. The crowd there is used to it. You aren't. Research indicates that it can take up to two weeks before getting adjusted to the heat.

3. Drink. This prudent piece of information is pretty straightforward. However, this is where most go wrong. People simply don’t know how much fluid they need to consume.

The amount of fluid that’s consumed depends on pre-workout hydration and urine output. A human’s average urine output is roughly 1.5 liters per day and should always be the color of slightly diluted lemon juice. Strength coach and fellow elitefts™ contributor Harry Selkow has stated that you “should be pissing clear by noon.” Darker colored urine usually, but not always, indicates dehydration.

The amount you should drink also depends on exercise intensity and duration. I know those two variables coupled together seemingly appeared as an answer to every question on the CSCS exam I took last year, but exercise that’s more intense produces more heat via muscle action. For example, let's take Kroc rows and an exercise featured in a Curves' circuit. The Kroc rows will be far more intense unless granny is strapping up for a 3-lb dumbbell row to failure at Curves.

Members at Metroflex already have the extreme temperatures working against them so their muscles are already warm—much warmer than the members doing the same exercises and same loads down the street at Bally’s. Obviously, exercise that is more intense, such as anaerobic training, will require carbohydrates. So unless you’re pre-contest, reach for a Gatorade instead of another bottle of water during your pre-workout stop at the convenience store. A carbohydrate mixture of 4–8 percent is ideal. Anything beyond that can produce flatulence or increase your chances of blowing out a batch of fecal tadpoles while grinding a 20-rep set on the leg press. Also, the amount you hydrate should be proportionate to the length of each session. If you’re hammering out a workout that consists of 20 or 30 work sets, it would be in your best interest to keep hydrated throughout the session. You should ideally alternate a carbohydrate containing, electrolyte-enriched sports drink with water throughout your workout.

Hydration guidelines

Prior to exercise: The adage of ingesting a minimum of a pint of fluid two hours before exercise still holds true, but if you’re practicing in football pads in the 85 degree weather at sunset in Florida, drink a little more. Maybe up to 1.5 pints or greater at two hours out. Make sure you're hydrated before you hit the practice field or gym. Exercise scientists suggest that individuals who are about to workout, especially in the heat, should be “hyperhydrated.” Studies show that fluid absorption rates range from 0.8–1.2 liters per hour, meaning that pre-workout hydration is crucially important.

During exercise: Sweat losses during one hour of exercise can easily exceed one’s daily urine output. So an individual should drink throughout the session, preferably in amounts of over 8  oz, as it empties from the stomach more rapidly, thus replenishing the body of fluids that are lost during exercise.

Following exercise: While it may make little sense to suggest this now because you’ve read what you should do prior to and during exercise, you should weigh yourself each morning upon awakening and before each session so you know exactly how much to drink afterward. Every client I train, including weight loss clients, is required to track his or her weight and be a part of a sweat rate test.

Here’s an example of what I use to figure out a weight loss client’s fluid losses and an ideal amount to replenish fluids following a session:

  • Upon waking, the individual was weighed using an accurately calibrated scale and registered a weight of 229 lbs. This weight was recorded at 8:48 a.m. by the client who was only wearing boxer shorts, which weigh 0.5–1.0 oz.

Prior to the workout, the individual, who is also one of my clients, weighed 231 lbs. This weight was recorded at 6:39 p.m. Because the weight was recorded in a busy gym locker room, my client again was weighed while wearing boxer shorts, which weigh 0.5–1.0 oz. The increase in weight is due to food and fluid intake throughout the day.

  • The individual will complete an exercise regime typical for him lasting 45–60 minutes.  During the bout, record the amount of fluids ingested (if any fluids are ingested). Try to avoid the consumption of solid food during this bout.

During the workout, my client consumed 8.0 oz of lime G2 Gatorade diluted with 16 oz of water. My client also drank a 16.9-oz bottle of water. Though no solid food was consumed, my client ingested 15 BCAA tablets throughout the workout. The tablets weigh 1g a piece, totaling 15 g. The total fluid consumption was 40.9 oz. I should note here that my client was sweating profusely throughout the workout and between sets. We had to wipe the floor and/or equipment down.

  • Post-exercise, remove clothes, towel the sweat off, and reweigh to nearest half pound if possible.

My client, following a 60-minute session which included a 5-minute cardiovascular warm up, five minutes of dynamic stretching and foam rolling, 30 minutes of lifting (using alternating supersets), and 20 minutes of interval training, was weighed post-workout. The weight recorded was 227 lbs. Though the client was wiped down with a towel following the session, he kept his boxer shorts on. I should mention that he was drenched in sweat, which could alter post-workout weight.

  • Calculate fluid loss per hour.

For example, if the beginning weight was 231 lbs (60 minutes of varied exercise at varying levels of intensity, 41  oz fluid consumed), the ending weight was 227 lbs.

The fluid loss is 231 lbs - 227 lbs + 2.5 lbs = 2.5-lb weight loss or 40 oz of fluid lost in 60 minutes.

Then convert to a per hour value: 24 oz/60 minutes = 40.0 oz sweat rate per hour

What’s the main take away from this piece? Keep hydrated so your lifts—and health—won’t suffer.