Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink!
If you feel thirsty then you are already dehydrated! Did you know that even mild dehydration can cause a serious drop in physical and mental performance?
How much should I drink for good hydration?
This is a question I get asked a lot as a PT and Strength & Conditioning Coach by my clients and athletes. Either that or I’m constantly nagging them to drink more!
Water, H20, Adam’s Ale, spring, filtered or tap
It doesn’t matter what you call it or how you drink it, water is essential for our health and performance, indeed our very lives.
A lot of different factors can determine how much water we must take on each day but one thing is clear; without adequate hydration we are compromised in many ways. We need water to function, to survive. Water is essential in delivering hormones and vital nutrients throughout the body as well as nourishing our skin and regulating our body temperature.
One way to track water consumption is to use a refillable water bottle. This will enable you to keep track of how much you drink in a day, and it’s more environmentally friendly too, no wasted paper cups or plastic bottles!
Another easy check on your hydration is to check your pee, it’s OK you only have to look! It should be a pale straw colour, if it is darker and strong smelling then you are already dehydrated!
The human body is approximately 65 to 70% water
It is actually quite difficult to drink too much water but quite easy to drink too little. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated! Mild dehydration has been shown to impair cognitive function, making you feel fatigued and fuzzy-headed, slowing our thought processes. A 10% loss in optimal hydration can decrease the effectiveness of your gym workout or sporting performance by up to 30%; pretty significant for an extra couple of glasses of water!
If you feel thirsty you ARE ALREADY dehydrated!
The early key signs of dehydration are a dry mouth, dark urine with a strong smell and dry skin.
From here, as dehydration increases the symptoms continue;
- The soft skin under the eyes is vulnerable to dehydration showing as dark and puffy
- Stiff aching muscle that can cramp and spasm
- Dehydration can increase blood pressure
- Digestive problems including bloating, constipation and diarrhea
- Dry irritated skin, red nose and dry, cracked nasal tissue and acne are often symptoms of dehydration
A big one for the summer months is irritated sunburn, sunburn is bad enough and causes dehydration in itself but if you are already dehydrated then it can get even more irritated and sore.
Headaches, nausea and fatigue are signs for both dehydration and a hangover. However, having a hangover when already dehydrated makes the hangover a lot worse!
So how much is enough?
So the question is how much should we drink? There are various guidelines on this including the following;
Drink 8 glasses of water a day (an active bigger person should drink more)
Drink a minimum of 2 litres per day (again size and activity levels can affect this as can climate)
Drink half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water i.e. a 200lb person would need 100oz of water per day.
It has also been suggested that we drink when thirsty, there are major flaws with this idea in that the body doesn’t always know the difference between thirst and hunger so leading to possible overeating and under drinking and that by the time we feel thirsty we are in fact already dehydrated.
Wake up to water!
If you are a heavy sweater then obviously you will need to drink more to compensate, as indeed you will if you are more muscular or an endurance athlete. However, we also use water in digesting food, when we breathe, during activity even if you don’t sweat and throughout the night as we sleep. In fact many people wake up quite dehydrated so drinking a large glass of water on waking is good practice.
The best method would be to check for early signs of dehydration such as darker urine and ensure that you always have water with you that you are sipping throughout the day.
Healthy whole foods tend to have a higher water content than high sugar, high salt processed foods which should be avoided anyway as part of a healthy eating plan.
Here are a few things to avoid, reduce or change to help with better hydration;
- Refined sugar and salt
- Processed refined foods especially dry foods like crisps and crackers
- Some medications increase dehydration
- Lack of sleep – i.e. get more sleep
Hydration for health and performance!
To finish on a positive note I am going to highlight the benefits of staying hydrated from both a health and wellness perspective as well as from a performance standpoint.
Water is essential for a healthy life, it invigorates, regenerates and renews us. I have outlined below some of the benefits of good hydration;
- Clear, smoother skin
- Healthier hair and nails
- Clearer and less irritated eyes
- Water will help flush toxins from the liver and kidneys
- Improved gut and bowel function
- You will be more alert and less fatigued
Athletic performance is hugely affected by hydration levels, and it doesn’t matter if you are an elite athlete or a regular gym user. Why would you not drink a few more glasses of water a day to get the most from your gym session and improve your overall body function at the same time?
Don’t glug, sip for good hydration!
Don’t glug a litre of water down in one go, this will just flush through your body and you won’t retain it effectively. Instead try to take a mouthful or two every 20 minutes throughout the day. This will have two benefits, first, you won’t be dashing to the loo as all that water suddenly hits your bladder! More importantly though, your body will be able to absorb and use more of the water you drink.
Why risk underperforming in competition and losing because you didn’t drink enough water? I’m not suggesting that a belly full of water makes you a better athlete but being consistently and appropriately hydrated will allow the athlete to train harder and be better prepared overall at competition time.
Please get in touch for any further information or advice on hydration or any other aspect of your training, health and fitness. You could also subscribe to The HIIT Works by Get Coached for more workouts, training programmes and nutritional support. Check out the membership options here!
Do you workout at home? Read my blog post here on home workout equipment.
Please also let me know your thoughts with a little feedback either via email firstname.lastname@example.org or through my Get Coached FB page. I hope this helped!