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Fluids and Alcohol

In this article we clearly identify the best drink to maintain your personal training clients hydration. And you know what - you will find this drink virtually everywhere, including your local pub...

Approximately 70% of our bodyweight is fluid. The main purpose of consuming fluids is to maintain this level, or in technical speak to ‘stay adequately hydrated’. To do this it is estimated that women need to consume approximately 2200mls per day and men need to consume approximately 3000mls per day. This equates to the common national nutritional guidelines that recommend people consume 6-8 large glasses of water everyday.

Those who exercise at high intensities for moderate time periods or for long periods at moderate intensities should replace all of the water they lose during exercise (they’ll need to drink more than the average person because they lose more through exercise). If you really want to know how much fluid you lose during an exercise session then the easiest way to determine this is by weighing yourself before and after the exercise session - the change in weight will be fluid loss (of course you will need some pretty sensitive scales to get an accurate measure!)

Dehydration can cause a loss of control of the musculature, it can restrict how hard the heart can work, and can result in fainting, headaches, nausea, mental lethargy, disorientation and even death.

As well as such symptoms as headache and lethargy, having a dry mouth and dry, cracked lips is another sure sign of dehydration. And if you pay attention when you go to the toilet then your pee should be clear if you are well hydrated. If your pee is coloured that’s a sure sign of dehydration, the darker the pee the more dehydrated you are, and the more urgent it is for you to get fluids onboard. Checking the colour of your pee and/or paying attention to how dry your mouth feels and how dry and cracked your lips are will usually be easier ways to determine your state of hydration as opposed to measuring weight change pre and post exercise.

personal%2520training%2520waterAnd you know what – short of climbing a high mountain to access fresh snow melt there is no better source of fluid than tap water, it’s free, it has no calories and it is generally safe to drink in the western world (check with your local council/health organisation if you’re not sure).

As tap water has no calories (and we need it to keep our fluid levels up) it also functions as a great appetite suppressant and medium for balancing the energy equation or tipping the equation to negative (weight loss) if necessary. Encouraging clients to consume a large glass of water prior to every meal can provide them with a sense of fullness (without calories), resulting in them actually eating less in order to gain that same sense of fullness.

The major issue with our fluid intake is what we choose to drink instead of water. Soft ‘fizzy’ drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic drinks are quite simply poor, unnecessary, expensive alternatives to tap water (no matter how good they may taste).

personal%2520training%2520sugarThe typical can/bottle of soft drink has a massive 10 teaspoons of unnecessary added sugar in it! Sports drinks and energy drinks have similar amounts of sugar (sometimes more) along with extra ingredients such as caffeine to act as a stimulant and provide the consumer with the temporary feeling of being ‘energised’ by a drink. The reality is simply that the stimulant in the drink has caused the heart to beat faster than normal.

While sports drinks may be marketed at those with ‘athletic aspirations’ the simple reality is that the sugar and electrolytes within these drinks are only beneficial or necessary when continuous moderate-intense exercise lasts well in excess of one hour, which generally counts out the typical gym user/personal training client.

In the vast majority of cases clients simply don’t need these added sugars so helping them to replace soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks with tap water can not only save them money but dramatically help to reduce their calorie intake. In the same vein, helping clients to reduce the amount of sugar they add to their tea and coffee throughout the day will also help to reduce caloric intake.

personal%20training%20alcohol%202A commonly consumed fluid for many adults (and adolescents!) is alcohol, in fact alcohol typically provides between 3-5% of the average adults daily energy intake (when spread out over a week). Alcohol, like fat is extremely high in calories, and while modest consumption is thought to be beneficial in protecting the body from heart disease and stroke, there are numerous negative associations with excessive alcohol intake. These include; dehydration, damage to the brain, liver, intestines and pancreas.

Excessive alcohol intake is also considered to be a risk factor for some types of cancer and high blood pressure, this may well be due to its high caloric content and association with weight gain. It is also linked to numerous anti-social behaviours. Alcohol in itself is a 'toxic' substance. The body prioritises dealing with and getting rid of toxins so if you or your clients are regularly consuming alcoholic beverages this may well be interfering with the processing of other foods which are likely to be stored as fat while the body focuses on getting rid of the toxin's. 

So encouraging moderation in alcohol consumption for relevant clients is a great way to reduce caloric intake and improve health, in fact many national nutrition guidelines recommend removing alcohol from the diet completely.

By the you know what the best 'detox' diet is? The best 'detox' diet is quite simply the diet that doesn't introduce toxins into the body in the first place! So if you and your clients limit or eliminate your alcohol intake (as well as all the unecessary added sugars) you'll never have to indulge in the craziness of the 'detox diet'!

‘Moderation’ in regard to alcohol consumption is generally considered to be drinking no more than 3 standard drinks for men, and no more than 2 standard drinks for women if consuming alcoholic beverages on most days of the week.

personal%252520training%252520big%252520wineSo what is a ‘standard’ drink? Do you think there might be a disparity between what a standard drink actually is and what you and your clients may think it is? Put it this way – if you’ve ever been poured a glass of wine in a bar and been disappointed with how ‘empty’ your glass seemed to be…you were probably poured a ‘standard’ drink!

Understanding a 'standard drink' is like understanding what a serving size is for foods - its critical for personal trainers because establishing the disparity between a standard drink/serving size and what your client actually consumes often holds the key to improving nutritional intake.

The following table gives an indication of what standard drinks are for beer, wine and spirits. Just remember – as alcoholic drinks are very high in calories it will be very important for you as a personal trainer to check the quantities your clients are consuming – doing so may highlight an obvious area to target for calorie reduction.

Standard drinks contained in typical servings of alcohol

Type of alcoholic drink

Serving of alcohol

Number of standard drinks


1 can/stubbie beer (5% alcohol)

1 glass (300ml) beer (5% alcohol)

1 pint beer (5% alcohol)

1 jug beer (5% alcohol)






1 single measure (25 ml) (whisky, gin, vodka)

1 bottle (750ml) spirits



Fortified wine

1 glass (sherry, martini, port)

1 bottle (750 ml)



Table wine

1 small glass (80ml)

1 bottle



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